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But I Don’t Really Like Serial Killers

Some time ago I blogged about getting a book by M. William Phelps through interlibrary loan. that was a well-deserved shout out (I love that expression) to the Mid-York Library System. Today I’d like to give a shout out to M. William Phelps.

I first encountered Phelps on an episode of one of my favorite crime shows, Snapped. he had written a book on the case being covered and was giving background. In addition to finding his comments informative, I noticed he was fairly gorgeous. Oh, I know, the informative part is the most important thing, but I can enjoy the scenery while I’m at it, can’t I?

I discovered M. William Phelps has a Facebook page. That was where I learned about his new series on Investigation Discovery (one of my favorite cable channels), Dark Minds. I’m always ready to check out another crime show. Dark Minds is on past my bed time (I definitely need my beauty rest), so I have been DVRing them to enjoy at my leisure.

The show is about serial killers. I must confess that serial killers are not my favorite kind of murderer. I like a nice, personal murder for a good reason, like greed or jealousy. Something anybody could understand. I don’t mind hearing about real serial killers, though, as long as it’s a well put together show. Just as an aside, I’m bored by the fictional ones, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Phelps concentrates on unsolved murders. By investigating and publicizing, he tries to heat up cold cases. What Dark Minds has that other cold case shows do not is 13. 13 is an incarcerated serial killer who through remorse or self-aggrandizement works with an FBI agent tracking other serial killers. The agent talks to 13 over a speaker phone with Phelps present. We don’t see 13’s face or even hear his real voice. It’s a little creepy, and the viewer gets a delicious sense of getting real inside information, especially when we see the shots of the corridors of the maximum security prison.

I have to confess, I’m not enamored of 13. He must be in control at all times. When he’s done he says, “That’s all” and breaks the connection. No options. In one episode, Phelps expressed his frustration to the FBI agent. I was glad to know I was not the only one. Some of 13’s insights I’ve heard before from FBI profilers and others. For example, why did the killings stop? The killer died or moved or is in prison for another crime. Still, 13 has a perspective that few of us (I hope) share.

Normally when I DVR a show I like, I watch several episodes in a marathon. I don’t do that with Dark Minds. I find it too disturbing. But it is a compelling show, and I intend to catch every episode.

The book I read, Too Young to Kill (Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011), is not about a serial killer but a sad story about a teenager killed by two other teens. It is thoroughly researched, including background on teen subculture that can’t have been easy to come by. Phelps also brings you right into the emotional experience of the victims’ parents. It is a gripping, moving story.

Phelps knows about the suffering of victims’ families from personal experience. His sister-in-law was murdered and the case is still unsolved. This puts him in the same category as two other of my most admired people, John Walsh and Dominick Dunne (at least, Dunne’s daughter’s murder was solved; I don’t know about Walsh’s son’s). All three suffered tragic losses at the hands of criminals and all three became passionate victims’ advocates. They turned their sorrow into service to others. I can’t think of a better thing to say about anybody. It also makes me think. I have blessedly never suffered such a tragedy. Do I have to wait for something terrible to happen before I try to help others? I hope not, and I’m looking for things I can do to help. In the meantime, I’m enjoying reading Phelps’ books and watching his TV show.

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