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All booksTrue crimeThe Killer Across the Table
The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
True crime

The Killer Across the Table

by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Quick take

Sure you want to know what makes a serial killer tick?

Why I love it

Camilla Way
Author, The Lies We Told

For those of us addicted to true crime, the inexorable tide of TV shows, podcasts and books on the subject in recent years has provided ample sustenance. Now, with The Killer Across The Table, John Douglas and Mark Olshaker have brought something genuinely new to the genre.

This is very far from mindless wallowing in a crime’s gory details. Drawing on twenty-five years with the FBI, criminal profiler John Douglas talks us through the interrogations with four predatory killers that enabled him to understand the macabre rationalization behind their grisly crimes—and in doing so provide a way of predicting and catching out future monsters. The exchanges are fascinating (his subjects often relating their most heinous deeds with chilling nonchalance) and Douglas clearly builds a rapport with his subjects, who seem to respond to his desire to give their actions some analysis and provide terrifying insight into their dark hearts.

In Killer, it is the forensic examination of motive that is most compelling. Did the murderer get off on watching his victim’s terror, or did he view their anguish as an irrelevant consequence of his desire to kill? Did he dispose of the body or return later to relive the ‘glory’ of his crime? Douglas shows us that it’s the answers to questions such as these that shed light on the killer’s mindset; into what separates one kind of psychopath from another, allowing us to come closer to understanding why these anomalies of nature do what they do.

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The FBI’s pioneer of criminal profiling, former special agent John Douglas, has studied and interviewed many of America’s most notorious killers—including Charles Manson, "Son of Sam Killer" David Berkowitz, and "BTK Strangler" Dennis Rader—trained FBI agents and investigators around and the world, and helped educate the country about these deadly predators and how they operate, and has become a legend in popular culture, fictionalized in The Silence of the Lambs and the hit television shows Criminal Minds and Mindhunter.

Twenty years after his famous memoir, the man who literally wrote the book on FBI criminal profiling opens his case files once again. In this riveting work of true crime, he spotlights four of the most diabolical criminals he’s confronted, interviewed and learned from. Going deep into each man’s life and crimes, he outlines the factors that led them to murder and how he used his interrogation skills to expose their means, motives, and true evil. Like the hit Netflix show, The Killer Across the Table is centered around Douglas’ unique interrogation and profiling process. With his longtime collaborator Mark Olshaker, Douglas recounts the chilling encounters with these four killers as he experienced them—revealing for the first time his profile methods in detail.

Going step by step through his interviews, Douglas explains how he connects each killer’s crimes to the specific conversation, and contrasts these encounters with those of other deadly criminals to show what he learns from each one. In the process, he returns to other famous cases, killers, and interviews that have shaped his career, describing how the knowledge he gained from those exchanges helped prepare him for these.

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Get an early look from the first pages of The Killer Across the Table.

Member thoughts

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All (504)
Love (254)
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523 ratings
  • 49% Love
  • 43% Like
  • 5% Dislike
  • San Antonio , TX

    Disclaimer: I love true crime books. I’ve read others by this author and loved them as well. It’s readable and understandable without a psychology degree and reveals insights into the minds of killers

  • Winston Salem, NC

    An eerie, but interesting read about four cases that Douglas' has come across over his many years as a profile for the FBI. Difficult for some readers but worth the gruesome details and sad moments.

  • Troy, IL

    I’ve always been fascinated with Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and profiling done by law enforcement. This book was so interesting! I hope that it’s used as a textbook in college classes.

  • Greenville, SC

    Interesting book. I hate saying I loved it because these are true tragedies. Thankfully there are men and women out there that are dedicated to finding justice and putting the bad guys away

  • Fort Wayne, IN

    Wonderful look into 4 serial killers and predators. Warning, very graphic! This book does not hold back details. Interesting comparisons and contrasts between different types of predators.

  • Phoenix, AZ

    LOVED this book. I’m a huge fan of Mindhunter and true crime so this was the perfect nonfiction for me. Very gruesome, but extremely interesting and it had my attention the entire time.

  • Sitka, AK

    I'm a nerd for murder-mystery books, and although this isn't a mystery I was enthralled by seeing "behind-the-curtain" of real life serial killers and the people that hunt them.


    This book is seriously terrifying. Each criminal is more terrifying than the first, each of them targeting a different vulnerability that all of us can relate to in some way.

  • Canoga Park, CA

    This book was absolutely fascinating! John Douglas is amazing! Loved reading about how they pick the minds of serial killers to learn why they do what they do!

  • Aberdeen, SD

    Loved the book Mindhunter and this one was great too. Interesting cases. Scary to think how many people are out there that could do these things to others

  • Aurora, CO

    An insightful portrayal of four killers but also many insights about well known cases. Ultimately a strong argument regarding the importance of choice.

  • South Elgin , IL

    As horrifying as it is to read quotes from actual interviews with killers, there's something fascinating about the wide variety of the human psyche.

  • Missoula , MT

    Interesting read. Helps give you some insight into what makes these criminals tick as well as the brave people who work hard to solve their crimes.

  • Homer Glen, IL

    I had just watched Mindhunter when this became available and I knew I had to read it. Such a good read if true crime books and shows interest you.

  • Mountain View, HI

    Fascinating look at four different killers from one of the people instrumental in setting up the FBI profiling unit. Not for the faint of heart.

  • Winter Garden, FL

    One of the best true crime books I’ve read. John Douglas is one of the most fascinating people and I’m so happy he writes about his work

  • Hummelstown, PA

    Since I work in the court system, it's interesting to find a read that gives you the why? So thank you for your hard work and dedication.

  • San Marcos, CA

    If you like true crime and/or abnormal psychology, you’ll like the unique (though often troubling) experience of reading this book.

  • Canton, MI

    For me, this was an absolute page-turner - I read it in a single day! I can’t wait to check out other works by Douglas and Olshaker!

  • Alexandria, VA

    The beginning chapters were all very strong. I had some difficulty with the end but overall a good, interesting, and quick read.

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