Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling

Fascinating true crime stories still require compelling narrators, and Michael Cannell (The Limit) demonstrates he's perfect for the task with Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling. The New York Police Department of the 1940s and '50s relied heavily on strong-arm methods, which proved ineffective against a schizophrenic serial bomber. The Mad Bomber confounded authorities for 16 years, planting more than 30 devices in public areas. Pressure to catch the faceless bogeyman ultimately forced the department to embrace a method of detection previously used only by literary icons such as Sherlock Holmes.

Psychiatrist James Brussel, the acknowledged father of modern criminal profiling, played a key role in the bomber's arrest. After looking through the police files, he provided details about what type of man he believed the villain to be, describing him down to the suit he would be wearing when captured. The subtitle's emphasis on profiling is, however, somewhat misleading; Incendiary provides a broad view of the case from several intriguing fronts, including psychiatry, forensics, bomb squad technology, the role of media and the changing landscape of criminal insanity laws. 

Cannell captures his audience like quicksand with a brief prologue, then sets off on a manhunt rich with historic details and a fantastic sense of time and place--a New York full of trench coats, brimmed hats, long-finned sedans, Checker Cabs and the greatest individual menace the city had yet to face. Incendiary is a firecracker of a case history about one of the country's first terrorists. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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