Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

The BTK Murders: Inside the “Bind Torture Kill” Case that Terrified America’s Heartland

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Don’t be put off by this ridiculous cover or Rader’s ugly mug; this book is well-written.

This guy was running lose for like 30 years?!

That was my incredulous reaction as I made my way through The BTK Murders: Inside the “Bind Torture Kill” Case that Terrified America’s Heartland by Carlton Smith. This is a well-written police procedural with glimpses into the killer’s doings based on his elaborate and forthright confessions.

It’s honestly a fascinating exposé of a personality, if you will. Because this guy is straight nuts. He’s so mired in narcissism that he has no real concept that other people exist other than to play a role in his (icky, icky) life.

Except, as Smith shows throughout the book, the killer, Dennis Rader, has a good cover. He’s married with two kids and lives an otherwise quiet life working for Coleman (based in Wichita) and an alarm system company (ironically), among other jobs.

What was most fascinating to me in Smith’s narrative is the part Bob Beattie plays. A retired lawyer and renaissance man of sorts (we get a bit of his background in the book), Beattie, when he was allowed to, helped the police and media root out Dennis Rader by playing his narcissistic tendencies against him.

For example, Beattie publicized that he was writing a book about Rader, betting that the killer wouldn’t be able to stand that someone else was writing his story, possibly getting things wrong. Sure enough, the publicity ferreted Rader out of his hole, prompting his communications with the media, which eventually led to his capture. I won’t tell you how he was caught because it’s just too good and if you read the book, I’d be depriving you of a laugh.

Despite thirty years, off and on, of detective work on behalf of Wichita law enforcement and even the FBI, Beattie pretty much comes across as the hero of this story, at least as Smith tells it. 

Anyway, if you like true crime, it’s a good read despite the sensationalist title and ridiculous cover.

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