Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Research Book Review: Killer Catchers

Book: Killer Catchers [link]
Authors: Andy Owens and Chris Ellis
ISBN: 978-1-84454-503-2
Number of pages: 293

Not sure where to start with this one, so I shall quote the back cover description first:

The murders in this book will chill you to the bone, but the techniques used to solve them will astound and reassure you in equal measure.

These murders are described separately, in 14 chapters with… interesting names. Consider that the tagline of the book is “Fourteen true stories of how Britain’s wickedest murderers were brought to justice”.

  • Ten minutes of madness
  • An imperfect murder
  • Psycho-trap
  • Life after death
  • Ashes to ashes
  • Will the real Mr. Platt…?
  • No place to hide
  • 96 hours of carnage
  • Murder for money
  • The Saturday night strangler
  • Guilt on a slide
  • False confession
  • Murder in Jersey
  • Murder Inc.

Now that I’ve been thinking about it, I know where to start. Let’s see, there are 14 chapters, each describing a murder. Well, out of those 14, seven could just been written as: ‘DNA techniques developed and the guy was caught’. The average crime in the book takes about 10 years to be solved, needs hundreds of detectives and in the end nothing happens except that DNA techniques identify the culprit. The actual investigative techniques are… lacking. It’s like watching an episode of the Forensic Files [link], but the thick Brit English makes you feel that it is being narrated by David Attenborough [link].

I bought the book hoping to catch a glimpse into the actual Great Britain investigative process. Police in the UK is rather different to the police anywhere else – for starters, regular cops are not even armed. As a source it proved not to be as useful as I hoped, but I had a good time reading it. I was very amused with something that the authors kept repeating: first, they would describe the murder, and leave out an important detail; later, they would reveal that detail as if it was already known to the reader. For instance, you get told that a victim was strangled and burnt at the beginning of a chapter, and only halfway through the fact that she was sexually assaulted is mentioned. This happens a lot through the book, with suspects having to be tracked down when they had never fled, sexual abuse occurring during the crime, or robbery on top of the murder. All told about a page or two after the main event was described. I own up to having backtracked a time or two to check if I had missed something. I was also amused at how much the words ‘lesbian affair’ were repeated when the victim of one of the murders was bisexual.

For a book written in 2008, however, I missed a mention or a chapter about the recently-deceased Colin Ireland, who in the early nineties murdered gay men in London [link] in a murder spree that looked right out of a horror movie script. Instead, it focused on sixties and seventies’ murders that got solved many years later – DNA again. It makes you think that no crime was ever solved before the ‘invention’ of DNA profiling. Thus, the techniques used to solve the cases seem to be either “advances in DNA” or “plain luck.”

I did enjoy the book though, a lot. I am not completely sure why. The style was more that of a yellow press article after another than of a serious journal research. I would have loved more focus on the actual policemen and detectives’ point of views, which was what I was after when I decided to get this book. It did give me pointers for bumping Victim #14 up a couple of times and that was good enough (is fun, though, I hoped to have it for the early stages of planning, and got lost in the post, so I needed to contact a very helpful Amazon seller who sent another one. Thank you, helpful seller). It shows how doggedly determined some detectives are and how sometimes their will alone manages to trigger the solving of the case.

All in all, true crime in a naïve style that takes down the impact of the events a notch or two. Only one complain, and that is a 100% personal appreciation. I really really hate the expression “Murder Inc.”. It should be staked through the heart and buried. End of story.

Webcomic attribution: xkcd [link]
Disclaimer: I don’t care much for Star Wars. I however love the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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4 responses to “Research Book Review: Killer Catchers

  1. Denise April 4, 2012 at 05:30

    What is that bad about Murder Inc. ?
    I mean all those titles sound more slapstick then serious but I cannot figure why this one is particularly bad?

    • Sakaki Delijah April 4, 2012 at 08:41

      I have been coming across it a lot lately and it irks me a lot, considering that most of the time is thrown in just because it ‘looks cool’. It is seriously overused in the ‘crime’ booksphere. In this case the chapter is about a guy who shoots another one point blank in the face and misses…

      • Denise April 4, 2012 at 13:18

        Oh I presumed it to be organized crime and murder by order kinda business undertaking – in which case it would be rather fitting. But not like that, no.

        • Sakaki Delijah April 4, 2012 at 16:23

          Well, the guy does want to become a hitman (really faily one at that), but I think the sentence is used as a synonym for “murder for hire”, when it is not…