Katherine Ramsland teaches in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University.
There are many cultural myths about serial killers, often propagated even by mental health professionals. Many assume there is a profile of a serial killer, that serial killers always go for the same victim type or always use the same MO, that they are more clever than ordinary people, and that they are inevitably charming and attractive. The truth is not as simple as that. There are different types of serial killers and while there are many books that discuss the serial killer phenomenon especially in relationship to victim types or context, researchers have not yet been able to come up with a definition, or type, that covers the broad spectrum of serial killers and their complex psychological dynamics. Ramsland looks at serial killer types, illustrating that it is difficult to accurately depict these elusive, intriguing, and dangerous killers.
This book examines a variety of serial killers, from sexual predators to psychotic killers, from murder teams to odd eccentric stalkers, in order to present the distinct psychological dynamics that set serial killers apart from other violent murderers. Among the motives addressed are lust, control, glory, profit, thrill, delusions, rage, the desire for company, the need to please a partner, and even murder as an intellectual exercise. Serial killers live double lives, hiding their violence even from those who live with them, so along with a study of motives are chapters devoted to how close associates have described killers, including parents, siblings, co-workers, lovers, and survivors. There is no profile of a serial killer, and this book establishes that in vivid and frightening detail.
Since the first recorded U.S. case of mass murder in 1949, massacres have been increasing each decade, with workplace violence taking the lead as the most common form. The psychology of the killers, however, differs from that of spree, serial, or situational murderers. The red flags of a developing mass killer are obvious and predictable, Ramsland argues, and people who learn to recognize them may be able to defuse a potentially violent situation before it occurs. Using details from various cases, the author examines the different kinds of mass murders, from visionary to family to workplace, and the distinct psychological dynamics of the different types of murders. This essential book exposes the inner world of mass murderers and dismantles the stereotypes we hold about them.
Crime specialists have long suspected that many healthcare serial killers have gone undetected. Because it is easier to cover up their crimes, it is harder to uncover that a crime has even been committed. Here, Ramsland identifies some of the warning signs that a serial killer may be on the loose in a healthcare setting. Further, she offers suggestions for reform in the healthcare and criminal justice communities that would help identify potential killers before they have a chance to strike, or strike again. Using numerous real-life cases in every chapter, she provides a fuller picture of this most deadly type of serial killer and helps readers understand how they work, and how they can be stopped.