Sunday, March 26, 2017
Five Steps to Profiling a Serial Killer by Carolyn Arnold for new FBI novel Remnants
Today, I'm featuring mystery author Carolyn Arnold. I was first introduced to Carolyn when I began exploring cozy mysteries; however, she has a big array of police procedural mystery novels, one of them is the Brandon Fisher FBI series, which is the main focus of this post.
Along with the synopsis, there is a guest post by Carolyn on the Five Steps to Profiling a Serial Killer and a short interview.
All that remains are whispers of the past…
When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.
With no quick means of identifying the deceased, building a profile of this serial killer is more challenging than usual. How are these targets being selected? Why are their limbs being severed and their bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this person to murder?
The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: The killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…
Five Steps to Profiling a Serial Killer
BY CAROLYN ARNOLD
He’s five seven, in his thirties, walks with a limp, works in temporary placements, and is single. He targets women because he was abused by his single mother, who slept around with men while he was growing up.
If you’re a fan of serial-killer fiction, whether it be on TV or in books, you are probably left shaking your head sometimes when the FBI sees some crime scene photos and immediately has a profile of the killer. What are they, psychic?
As it turns out, profiling is actually a science, though not an exact one. In fact, many profiles prove to have been wrong once the unsub is caught. So why bother profiling at all? Well, even if some facts are off, profiling establishes a foundation from which investigators can begin their search for—and hopefully catch!—the killer.
So what do investigators consider when building a profile?
1. Investigators focus on the crime itself. What do the crime scene photos show? What are the autopsy findings? Are there any witnesses, and if so, what are they saying? What have police officers noted in their reports?
2. Investigators visit the crime scene. They use their six senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and intuition—and make a record of their reactions. They analyze where the body was found, whether the murder was committed in the same location that the body was found or the body was dumped. They question any and all aspects of the location and what it might tell them about the killer and/or the killer’s victim selection, aka victimology.
3. Investigators look for a signature or method of operation (MO). Don’t confuse these two terms, though, as they are not the same thing. Every crime has an MO, which is how the murder was carried out, but a signature is not present in all cases. A signature only exists when a killer chooses to leave behind a personal mark.
4. Investigators consider what kind of unsub might commit the crime at hand. For example, are they organized or disorganized? Are they a hunter or a sexual sadist? Is gender, age, or religion relevant? Is there is a geographical element to the crimes?
5. Investigators take a closer look at the victims. They factor in similarities and determine whether the victims are low-, medium-, or high-risk people. Can any of the victims be connected to one or more person or place? How were the victims approached? Is there evidence of resistance, or is it possible the victims knew their killer?
Sometimes the answers to all these questions can be harder to piece together than others. In my most recent novel, Remnants, Brandon Fisher and his FBI team struggle to build a profile on the killer they’re hunting, as the identities of the victims are unknown and aspects of the MO vary among the murders. But when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found—something they haven’t seen in any of the previous deaths—the case takes a dark turn that begins to provide them with some new leads.
As the story unfolds, the FBI is drawn deeper and deeper into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though, even if they don’t have all the facts yet: The killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…
I invite you to read Remnants and profile alongside the FBI to stop a serial killer in Savannah, Georgia.
Interview with Carolyn Arnold
Have you ever been on a manhunt or at the scene where a dead body was found?
Carolyn Arnold: I took part in my local police department’s Citizen’s Academy. As part of this, I received an inside look at seventeen divisions over a ten-week period. As an added benefit, each student was afforded a ride-along. And mine… Well, I went on the perfect one for a crime writer.
My ride-along actually started out with a manhunt. I experienced the excitement of wanting to find the guy and found myself scrutinizing every male I spotted in the area just to make sure he wasn’t the one we were after. Unfortunately, the search moved to the downtown area from the eastern end of the city where the hunt had begun, and the sergeant signed off the investigation. By the end of my ride-along, about five hours later, the man still hadn’t been found.
After the sergeant left the investigation, he turned to me as he was driving and asked if I had ever seen a dead body. I told him I had at memorials and funerals and then asked why. I soon found out that our next stop involved one.
I figured I’d catch a glimpse of the deceased under a tarp or being wheeled away, but I got far more than that. I received a front-row seat to a death investigation. For hours, the sergeant and I were mere feet away from the body. I witnessed firsthand how it changed color over time, but I also found that I went into detective-mode. The forensic identification unit—essentially CSIs—was called in and arrived with collection kits. The team members gloved up, snapped photographs, took fingerprints from the deceased, and more.
The entire time that I was on scene, I noticed myself going into a detached state—the result of adrenaline. Later that evening, it began to sink in that I had spent hours with a dead body, and I was nauseated. As more time passed, I became weepy as it sank in that the deceased had been a husband, a father, a lover, a friend…a person. That night I dreamed about the man. It wasn’t a nightmare, but I was an officer trying to figure out what had happened to him.
I couldn’t imagine returning to the field the next day and having a similar experience or witnessing something even worse, like a violent murder scene or that of a fatal car accident.
What do members of law enforcement say about your books?
CA: Many testimonials attest that I am pleasing readers in law enforcement. They love that my mysteries are accurate in that regard, and they view that alone as a sign of my respect for them.
Here are a few testimonials that I have received on Eleven (Brandon Fisher FBI series):
“I spent thirty-eight years with a major police department in Missouri, fifteen of which were in the homicide section. I also had numerous dealings with the FBI throughout my career…Eleven kept my interest piqued throughout… Loved it.”
–Richard Bartram, Sergeant (retired), St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis, MO
“A great police procedural! … Full of twists and turns. The characters are well-developed and a mix of interesting personalities. … Holds your interest to the end!”
–Mark Davis, FBI Special Agent (retired), Washington, DC
How do you know so much about what criminals think?
CA: I can’t answer that without incriminating myself… Just kidding.
Everyone has what we call a “dark side.” In writing these books, I suppose you could say I tap into this side of my psyche. Whatever I can scheme up is possible, and I write that which scares and excites me.
When did you know that you had hit the big time with your books?
CA: When I got to say good-bye to my day job! Even before I fully resigned, I had cut back a five-day a week job to four days, then to three. It got to the point, though, that I loathed going in for that many days, and I knew it was time to make the move and become a full-time author. That was in the summer of 2014. Since then, I incorporated my own publishing company in the summer of 2015, and, at the start of 2016, my husband joined me there full time.
Remnants is available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats from popular retailers, including: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo and .
About the Brandon Fisher FBI series:
Profilers. Serial killers. The hunt is on. Do serial killers and the FBI fascinate you? Do you like getting inside the minds of killers, love being creeped out, sleeping with your eyes open, and feeling like you’re involved in murder investigations? Then join FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team with the Behavioral Analysis Unit in their hunt for serial killers.
This is the perfect book series for fans of Criminal Minds, NCIS, Silence of the Lambs, Seven, Dexter, Luther, and True Crime.
Read in any order or follow the series from the beginning: Eleven, Silent Graves, The Defenseless, Blue Baby, Violated, Remnants.
If you're looking for a lighter read, check out my book review of Carolyn Arnold's Coffee Is Murder.
About the Author
Carolyn Arnold is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series and has written nearly thirty books. Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark, POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.
And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter for up-to-date information on release and special offers at http://carolynarnold.net/newsletters