Review: Catch Me a Killer, Micki Pistorius

An insightful profile of South Africa’s leading forensic profiler

Every crime writer needs his or her good sources, and this is one of those autobiographies by a top forensic profiler which is invaluable, particularly when you're writing about serial killers in South Africa. The political and social landscape of that country are unique, and it is terrifying to see the kind of violence which that country's apartheid history bred. When Micki first came to work for the police, South Africa had over twenty serial killers on the loose - if I'm not mistaken. For a country that's smaller than Texas, that was a shockingly high number. Lucky for the rest of us, she became a big cog in the large engine that brought the situation under relative control.

If the rumour mill amongst some of the forensic people I've spoken to is to be believed, South Africa is now one of the most effective countries in apprehending serial killers. Its small size helps - serial killers can't make a run for it as they can in, say, the vast expanse of the USA, but it also helps having one police force, and a tight communication network within it, which now understands profiling, and no longer treat this art as witchcraft.

This is Micki Pistorius’s much acclaimed autobiography as an investigative psychologist with the South African police service. It documents her involvement in the country’s most notorious serial killing investigations, and offers an excellent behind-the-scenes account of how, amongst others, Moses Sithole, the Saloon Killer, the Phoenix Killer and the Station Strangler were captured. Concurrent with the story of the killers and killings, Micki allows us a glimpse of her professional development, and the many hurdles she faced in the police service, particularly in the company of hardened and distrustful detectives from the various Murder and Robbery Units in South Africa.

Her biography is a raw story, nothing like the clean-cut profilers on television. She is a brave woman who faced things better left unsaid, and paid a hefty Faustian price for her success. It is a pity that for all her honesty about the killings and the murderers – even some aspects of her personal life – I was left feeling that I still did not know much about this remarkable woman. But then, she certainly deserves some privacy after such gruelling and taxing work.

A great big thumbs up for her meticulous and descriptive accounts of South African serial killers and the police work that went into catching them. Readers of crime fiction and students of psychology and criminology alike will gain a lot from reading this book.

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