One of the strongest messages you get from a true crime book like INSIDE THEIR MINDS is that no matter how hard we try, no matter how much analysis goes on, there is something about so many of the more notorious criminals in our world that the rest of us will simply never fathom.
Rochelle Jackson looks at some of the most notorious, mass murderer Martin Bryant, sex offender Karen Ellis, serial killer Ivan Milat, serial arsonist Peter Burgess, armed robber and serial escapee Brenden Abbott, child killer Kathleen Folbigg, murdered Matthew Wales and gangland killer Carl Williams. Each of these cases, in their own time, created a wave of reaction within Australia - and probably, in the case of Martin Bryant and Carl Williams in particular, outside Australia as well.
Where possible Jackson has sat down and talked to the offender in their own right. Where that wasn't an option she has spoken, in particular, to a leading Australian forensic psychologist who has worked with all of them. This gives many of the sections of the book a real sense of immediacy and intimacy which is disquieting.
The chilling factor in all these cases is how frequently the perpetrator's absolutely and utterly refusal to acknowledge what they have done - either because they maintain that they are innocent, or because they simply don't seem to "get" the enormity of what they did. There's certainly nothing in Jackson's revelations that make you question the decisions drawn by the courts - but then this is not a book that seeks to prove or disprove innocence. It's about what goes on in the mind of those tried and found guilty of their crimes - what made them do it. The truly chilling part is in cases like that of Martin Bryant - 35 people dead, and the motivation - or what can be extrapolated as possible motivation as Bryant isn't talking - isn't really all that obvious. The book is worth reading for the Bryant chapter alone. That's not to say that other chapters are not equally as enlightening. After years of living in a highly flammable, bushfire prone area, the chapter one on one with serial arsonist Peter Burgess was very illuminating.
INSIDE THEIR MINDS is a fascinating book for those of us who read crime in fictional form, if for no other reason than to remind you that real life is often not all neatly resolved.