This is very scary true-crime book. Legendary FBI profiler John Douglas explores the shocking case of John Robinson, a harmless, unassuming family man whose criminal history began with embezzlement and fraud-and ended with his arrest for the savage murders of six women and his suspected involvement in at least five disappearances. Most disturbing was the hunting ground in which Robinson seduced his prey: the world of cyberspace. Haunting chat rooms, targeting vulnerable women, and exploiting the anonymity of the Internet, his bloody spree was finally halted by a relentless parole officer who spent ten years trying to nail Robinson as a cold-blooded killer.
This is a true story about one very crazy person. It is a shame that some people are able to get away with such awful things for so many years before they are cought. Though I know some never are cought. This was a train wreck story from start to finish. The writing could have been better but the story keeps you going. Knowing it is all true is also captivating.
Though the author did try to paint the Internet as a lawless place teeming with criminals, I was left with the feeling that anyone exercising common sense could have avoided falling victim to John Robinson. Would you pick up and move across the country for the promise of a job and a master/slave relationship with someone you "met" in a bondage/domination chat room? Wouldn't you first use that same Internet to do a background check on your lover-to-be? He was a career criminal.
Putting aside the anti-Internet stuff, and the comical descriptions of computer forensics ("It's a trade secret.", says the "court expert" when asked how erased files can be recovered.), I did like how slowly the story moved in the beginning. I wanted to know all the details of the lives of people who wound up acting in such foolish and dangerous ways.
What I took away from this story was how an evil man with the ability to smooth-talk (i.e., lie to) the ladies had his playground enlarged by the Internet. The laws protecting criminals permitted him to kill scores of women before capture. Not a one of these women deserved their fate, but all could have avoided it.
Douglas (The Cases That Haunt Us)-criminal profiler, ex-FBI agent, true crime writer and supposedly the model for a key character in Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs- presents the sordid and horrific case of John Robinson, "the nation's-if not the world's-first Internet serial killer." A chubby middle-aged father of four with a long history as a con man, Robinson explored the local s&m underground of Kansas City while skillfully using Internet chat groups to lure sexually adventurous women to Kansas, where he killed six of them, and perhaps five more, before his arrest in 2000. Douglas's methodical pace and his careful accretion of detail to describe bizarre crimes committed by seemingly ordinary people is highly reminiscent of the work of true crime writer Ann Rule, with Douglas seeing the case as being "about sex among unglamorous people and how the Internet had unleashed so many pent-up possibilities." He also spends a lot of time describing how the proliferation of porn-related sites on the Internet has made it "the fastest-growing criminal frontier in cyberspace." While much of this is fascinating, Douglas too often breaks his tone to issue simplistic warnings to the reader ("Nobody can any longer afford to be naive when it comes to cyberspace"). Johnson, writing with journalist Singular, helpfully offers an appendix featuring "tips for helping adults and kids avoid the dangers of on-line predators.
The Internet has made many enterprises easier since its rise to popularity in the mid-90s: book sales, personal correspondence, and, in the case of John Robinson, serial murder. Even before he ever went online, Robinson had forged a life consistent with a killer's profile. Despite being fired and arrested numerous times for fraud and theft, he wriggled out of serious trouble thanks to a smooth charm and cunning intelligence. For decades, Robinson's more sinister activities escaped the notice of nearly everyone, including law enforcement and, incredibly, his own wife. But what makes Robinson's story, as told here by John Douglas and Stephen Singular, uniquely disturbing is the presence of the World Wide Web and the ease with which a murderer can use it. Online, Robinson frequented chat rooms and sites dedicated to the lurid underground world of bondage and sadomasochism. In this anonymous space, he was free to assume honey-tongued new identities that he used to lure women, especially those in vulnerable situations, to Kansas with promises of employment, protection, or sex. Their subsequent disappearances were explained away with letters that appeared to be written by the victims but were actually typed by the killer on pieces of paper the women had previously signed. Ultimately, dogged law enforcement officials were able to catch up with Robinson and put him on trial after finding gruesome evidence of his deeds. While they are skilled true-crime writers, Douglas and Singular occasionally stray into hyperbole, which is far from necessary given the elements already present in Robinsons horrifying story. It is likely that any reader will walk a little more warily by their computer after reading this book and getting an idea of who might be hiding behind a given nickname