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

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

Long before the specter of terrorism haunted the public imagination, a serial bomber stalked the streets of 1950s New York. The race to catch him would give birth to a new science called criminal profiling.Grand Central, Penn Station, Radio City Music Hall―for almost two decades, no place was safe from the man who signed his anonymous letters “FP” and left his lethal devic...

Title:Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:125004894X
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:304 pages

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

  • Auderoy Lin

    :

    Schizophrenics follow their own logic. We just don’t understand it.

    How does one apprehend the wits of a madman?

    He looked unremarkable in every way, as if life had failed to make a distinguishing mark on him.

    He was content in the company of bombs, despite the harrowing possibilities. If anything, he was too brave.

    Incendiary power had not been his main goal. He was not trying to kill people, not yet anyway. He was simply trying to make a point.

    Instead of starting with a known personalit

    :

    Schizophrenics follow their own logic. We just don’t understand it.

    How does one apprehend the wits of a madman?

    He looked unremarkable in every way, as if life had failed to make a distinguishing mark on him.

    He was content in the company of bombs, despite the harrowing possibilities. If anything, he was too brave.

    Incendiary power had not been his main goal. He was not trying to kill people, not yet anyway. He was simply trying to make a point.

    Instead of starting with a known personality and anticipating his behavior, as Langer had, maybe Dr. Brussel could start with the bomber’s behavior and deduce what sort of a person he might be... Dr. Brussel called it reverse psychology. Today we call it profiling.

    "The mind stores enormous amounts of data over the course of years, but not all this data is available to the conscious thinking process. Some of it lies just below the surface. It’s knowledge, but you aren’t consciously aware of it. Every now and then, however it makes itself felt: it produces a sudden and rather mysterious flash of

    . A hunch. You don’t know where it came from and you aren’t sure you can trust it, but it is there in your mind, insistently demanding to be considered. What do you do with it? Throw it out, or use it? This is the choice you must make. In general, I use such intuitive flashes as long as they are consistent with other data I have on hand."

    He often spent the next afternoon, before his shift began, gardening behind his home in suburban New Jersey. “I like to see things grow,” he said. “I’ve seen so many things dying.”

    Sometimes the difference between failure and success is a new thought.

    A house can hold a human presence forever.

    The difference lies in your interpretation of reality.

    “As I grew older, I began to conclude that the benefits of law were only for the well-to-do, and the poor didn’t have a chance.”

    Brains meant nothing without heart.

    Most wrongdoers, he believed, were decent characters corrupted by inadequate upbringings.

  • Rose

    An amazing journey into the search for a bomber, Incendiary has impeccable sources and details that make you part of the hunt. Michael Cannell's skills for building the tension made me feel frustrated along with the bomb squad and officials, scared as the residents must have felt, and confused how someone could be so twisted. Full Disclosure: I was allowed to read a copy of this book for free as a member of NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review. The opinions I have expressed are my own an

    An amazing journey into the search for a bomber, Incendiary has impeccable sources and details that make you part of the hunt. Michael Cannell's skills for building the tension made me feel frustrated along with the bomb squad and officials, scared as the residents must have felt, and confused how someone could be so twisted. Full Disclosure: I was allowed to read a copy of this book for free as a member of NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I was not influenced to give a positive review.

  • M- S__

    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for feedback and review.

    This book is great. Definite shades of Lawrence Wright. Cannell really expertly weaves the facts and reporting of the case of the Mad Bomber into an easy to follow narrative. I really appreciated how many perspectives you get: from the newspapers to the police to the profiling psychiatrist.

    I was attracted to this book because I didn't really know the story of the Mad Bomber, and this was about as comprehensive a look at him

    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for feedback and review.

    This book is great. Definite shades of Lawrence Wright. Cannell really expertly weaves the facts and reporting of the case of the Mad Bomber into an easy to follow narrative. I really appreciated how many perspectives you get: from the newspapers to the police to the profiling psychiatrist.

    I was attracted to this book because I didn't really know the story of the Mad Bomber, and this was about as comprehensive a look at him and the time period as I could have asked for. Solidly sourced and incredibly thorough.

    A couple years ago I read a book called

    . A major point made there was that a lot of the power of a bomb is not in the destruction, but in the noise. A bomb, especially in the period of time this book covers, acts as a microphone for bombers. This book does a really good job of fairly covering the grievances George Metesky was trying to amplify while placing them in the context of his psychology.

    The only issue I really had with the book was its epilogue, which ran a bit too long and tried to cover too much of the "after" part of the story. It was great to have so many perspectives inform the main thrust of the book, but there's a lot more time than necessary spent making sure every one of those individual storylines gets a neat little bow tied on it. Overall I definitely recommend this book highly to anyone though. It was a great read.

  • David

    How much do you like to know about a book before you start it? The answer may tell you something significant, but not necessarily flattering, about yourself, like some kind of

    for the type of adults who feel about books like children feel about marshmallows.

    I consistently fail this marshmallow test for adults. For example, when

    , I cannot sit by and wait for the author-created argot of the future to make itself clear by inference after repeated use, because

    How much do you like to know about a book before you start it? The answer may tell you something significant, but not necessarily flattering, about yourself, like some kind of

    for the type of adults who feel about books like children feel about marshmallows.

    I consistently fail this marshmallow test for adults. For example, when

    , I cannot sit by and wait for the author-created argot of the future to make itself clear by inference after repeated use, because I feel that if what I desire is to be confused by my environment, all I need to do is walk out my front door. I read books to get away from that. Fortunately, Gibson is a big noise among the nerdy types who like that sort of thing, so you can count on spoiler-filled blog posts and the like to appear on the internet mere hours after Gibson's latest has been made public. Reading them can be just as rewarding as getting that marshmallow in your pie-hole immediately, before some stupid scientist (who has promised you two, yeah like I'm gonna believe that) tricks you and takes it away from you.

    In this case, some clever people apparently associated with

    made a very interesting interactive map of this events in this book. It is available through the “bit.ly” link on this book's Goodreads page as of this writing, and also

    . It is an awesome map and fun to look at, but might ruin the book for some readers. Which type of reader are you? Have a marshmallow?

    The map made the book an easier read for me, which I didn't mind, because I was perfectly happy to know how certain important events in the book would transpire. If spoilers get your boxers in a bunch, avoid. But I was happy to have a clue about the timeline, because the book starts in 1956, then moves back to 1951, while referring to events as far back as 1908. It eventually gets up to the mad bomber's first attack in 1941 before returning to 1951 and assuming a generally more traditional timeline.

    The book has the things that make true crime stories fun, like the colossal turns of luck, both good and bad, which result in moments of fairly suspenseful storytelling. For example, man finds a live bomb attached to the New York Public Library payphone he is using. He continues flirting telephonically with his girlfriend while manhandling the bomb. He gets off the phone and, incredibly, carries the bomb through the library to his boss. The boss, a busy man, ignores him. The gravity of the situation begins to dawn on man with a live bomb in his hand. His next response is to panic and drop the bomb out a nearby window without regard to consequences. Fortunately it lands harmlessly in a bush, after which it finally occurs to someone to call the police.

    I also, perversely, enjoy reading about bureaucratic villainy and bungling which invariable crop up in stories like these. Some examples:

    – The bomber is driven to his acts of public terror by ill-treatment by his former employer, who then covers up evidence that would help bring the bomber to justice, for fear of bad publicity.

    – A very important bit of information is discovered on a Friday night and then left to sit on somebody's desk until Monday morning.

    – The person who discovered the important bit of evidence above is denied reward money by the police, apparently because she was not a police officer. The reward money is distributed by the police to … other police.

    I received an free unfinished galley of the ebook for review. Thank you to

    and

    for their generosity.

  • SundayAtDusk

    In

    , author Michael Cannell takes a long, detailed, highly readable look at the Mad Bomber; the police who investigated the case; the psychiatrist who created such an accurate profile of the bomber that he appeared to be psychic; the newspapers that covered the bombings; and the bomber's dedicated defense lawyer. George Metesky was definitely mad, both in his mind and in his feelings for Consolidated Edison, the company he felt ruined his life. For 16 years, he planted bombs in various

    In

    , author Michael Cannell takes a long, detailed, highly readable look at the Mad Bomber; the police who investigated the case; the psychiatrist who created such an accurate profile of the bomber that he appeared to be psychic; the newspapers that covered the bombings; and the bomber's dedicated defense lawyer. George Metesky was definitely mad, both in his mind and in his feelings for Consolidated Edison, the company he felt ruined his life. For 16 years, he planted bombs in various places in New York City to express his rage, as well as to show off his bombing skills.

    The NYC police did everything they could to try to catch him, but all they ended up doing was responding to calls about planted bombs that had exploded and those that had yet to explode. Since their old police methods were not working, something new was tried--they had a well-known psychiatrist create a "profile" for the bomber. James Brussel, the psychiatrist, did come up with an incredibly accurate profile, but that in itself did not uncover the mad man. What also greatly helped was Dr. Brussel's suggestion that the police make public much of what they guessed about the bomber, since he felt they were dealing with a man who wanted public attention, and would thus respond in a way that provided clues to his identity.

    That's where the newspapers came in, and the attention George Metesky received did indeed lead him to offer information that led to his capture. Moreover, a Con Ed clerk, going through old records, was able to find a complaint filed by him due to the fact she had read the newspaper articles on him. After Mr. Metesky was arrested, he was defended by James D.C. Murray, an attorney well-known for defending obviously guilty people. Mr. Murray was one of the most interesting characters in the story, because he was not some smarmy lawyer looking for fame or fortune. Instead, he was a man who believed that individuals often committed crimes due to poverty, or due to other injustices they were expected to live with.

    By the end of the book, one knows all about the Mad Bomber, and about all aspects of the case against him. One also can clearly see how the old ways the police did business often no longer worked, which was how the field of psychiatry penetrated the police department, often to the dismay of some policemen. Others, though, embraced the presence of psychiatrists, and felt they added a clearer picture of what was going on in the minds of criminals, hopefully providing a portrait of sorts to help lead to an arrest. Psychiatrists had been used as expert witnesses in court cases before the Mad Bomber case, however, so that was not really anything new. But this case did clearly demonstrate that judges, like policemen, had diverse views about how helpful psychiatrists actually happened to be. George Metesky was committed to an asylum . . . but not forever.

    (Note: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher.)

  • ck

    These days, with a steady flow of news and fiction, it would be easy to take the concept of criminal profiling for granted.

    Just how much a shame that would be is apparent within the first few chapters of Incendiary. Michael Cannell transports readers to Manhattan in the 1950s, where residents and police are increasingly concerned about a rash of bombs that have caused injuries and damage, but no deaths ... yet.

    Police g

    These days, with a steady flow of news and fiction, it would be easy to take the concept of criminal profiling for granted.

    Just how much a shame that would be is apparent within the first few chapters of Incendiary. Michael Cannell transports readers to Manhattan in the 1950s, where residents and police are increasingly concerned about a rash of bombs that have caused injuries and damage, but no deaths ... yet.

    Police gather and follow clues, but most often seem relegated to locating homemade pipe bombs and defusing them. The person making and placing the bombs has a concern and an agenda, and even circles back, placing follow-up bombs in some locales more than once.

    With no solution in sight, the department seeks the help of a psychiatrist, hoping his professional insight can help them focus their investigation and identify the bomber.

    And with this decision, the true-life game is afoot. Author Cannell delves into the history of the "mad bomber" case and brings to life an early foray into criminal profiling. Enriching the story is the equally true involvement of one of the city's newsrooms, at the sunset of the heyday of print journalism.

    It is evident that Cannell has done his homework, and equally apparent that his goal is to let the innate power of the story lead his readers along. He provides background as needed -- generally without straying too far afield.

    I appreciated his decision to enable several key members of the story share their thoughts and perceptions in their own words, without letting this device get either heavy-handed or too into the weeds.

    Whether your interest is in history, psychology, or a suspenseful true-crime tale, this book is likely to hold your attention straight through.

  • Andrew Benesh

    Incendiary is a unique book that chronicles the Mad Bomber of New York and the various police, psychiatrists, journalists, and judges who ultimately brought his 16 year campaign of domestic bombings to an end. The book explores the story from the first bomb being set to the bomber's eventual demise in extreme detail. This is both the main fascination the book provides, and my chief complaint.

    provides a level of depth and detail that goes beyond what most historical crime novels a

    Incendiary is a unique book that chronicles the Mad Bomber of New York and the various police, psychiatrists, journalists, and judges who ultimately brought his 16 year campaign of domestic bombings to an end. The book explores the story from the first bomb being set to the bomber's eventual demise in extreme detail. This is both the main fascination the book provides, and my chief complaint.

    provides a level of depth and detail that goes beyond what most historical crime novels aspire to. Readers are fully immersed in the world of mid-century New York City. This is particularly valuable for helping readers better understand the context of various actions throughout the story, and helps explain how immigrant nationalities and regional identities shaped policing. Cannell takes his time to build rich and detailed images that are effective at bringing the reader back in time, and doing so without the excessive theatrics or melodrama that sometimes accompany historical visualization. Where he does venture into the theatrical, he supports his characterizations with observations from the time, which helps build his credibility as he chases the Mad Bomber. Despite the great egos of the many figures profiled, there's a certain humility and honesty that's well conveyed in Cannell's accounts; we see both his subjects outward strengths and their inward uncertainty about whether they are really solving the case. The interludes which share the bomber's perspective are well structured, and provide just enough depth to keep the story rolling without revealing the full truth to those unfamiliar with the case; I would gladly read another chapter or two of these!

    At the same time, I feel the detail at times is distracting and excessive. As the book progresses, it feels less like an exploration of how the application of psychiatric ideas to the mad bomber case led to the birth of profiling, and more like a series of chronologically ordered character studies of the (admittedly fascinating) people who interacted with the case over the decades. For example, early in the book, we're treated to a

    , which could make for an excellent book of it's own and seems at best tangentially related to the story of the bomber and the psychiatrist. I'm both delighted that the author chose to share this story, and somewhat disoriented at it's inclusion in the book. The disorientation is elevated some by the lack of consistency in how topics for detailed tangents are chosen; we learn a great deal about

    and

    , but are given only superficial nods to

    or

    . A final, and admittedly petty complaint, is that the length of chapters is erratic - some come in at 7 or 8 pages, while others are just short of 40! This makes planning to sit down and read a quick chapter a risky gambit for the reader who can't marathon through the book.

    Overall, I definitely recommend this to those who are interested in forensic psychiatry, historical crime, and mid-century US history. Despite some shortcomings, the book is engaging and well composed, and tells an often overlooked story that shaped much of how we handle modern domestic terrorism and serial crime.

  • D.J. Adamson

    Michaell Cannell’s work Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling offers not only a turn paging thriller, explosive to the nerves and senses, but it gives the reader a comprehensive look into how forensic profiling began as a research tool in understanding the criminal, the act, and the apprehension. While crime writers will find this work both entertaining and fascinating, others who enjoy thrillers, mysteries, television show such as NCIS and Criminal

    Michaell Cannell’s work Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling offers not only a turn paging thriller, explosive to the nerves and senses, but it gives the reader a comprehensive look into how forensic profiling began as a research tool in understanding the criminal, the act, and the apprehension. While crime writers will find this work both entertaining and fascinating, others who enjoy thrillers, mysteries, television show such as NCIS and Criminal Minds will equally find they cannot put the book down.

    Reviewed on:

Top Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.