Like having a dear old friend over for dinner, Serial Killer Timelines: Illustrated Accounts of the World’s Most Gruesome Murders is a walk down memory lane. Not good memories, mind you, but true crime aficionados will be familiar with many (if not all) the murderers found in this book.
The first true crime book I ever read was about Randy Kraft. Kraft was so evil, his story ignited a passion to find out more about serial killers. Although the repugnant details are enough to put one off rare meat for decades, my interest has been in two areas: 1) criminology (forensics and detection), and 2) psychology (what were they thinking?). Having read the “true story” of scores of serial killers, I’m pretty sure that whatever they were thinking is not something I’ve ever thought (or maybe I’m just better at sublimating).
Serial Killer Timelines is divided into five chapters, beginning with “A Lust for Killing.” Cases covered are the infamous John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, as well as the prolific Andrei Chikatilo, Pedro Lopez, Harold Shipman, and Gary Ridgeway. The second chapter, “Special Desires,” includes — as you would expect — Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish, plus H.H. Holmes, Joachim Kroll, Dennis Nilsen, Edmund Kemper, and Richard Ramirez. Some of the cases go back to the late nineteenth century (such as Chapter Three’s Jack the Ripper), most are from the twentieth century, and a few were active in the twenty-first century.
The third chapter is “Predators”; in addition to the Whitechapel Killer, there are David Berkowitz, Robert Hansen, Randy Kraft, The Yorkshire Ripper, and the Beltway snipers. Chapter four is relatively short; its “Female Murderers” are Jane Toppan, Dorothea Puente, and Aileen Wuornos. The final chapter presents “Serial Killer Couples”: the Moors Murderers, The Hillside Stranglers, and Fred and Rosemary West.