I love reading crime and thriller fiction books and I enjoy watching true crime programmes on tv so when friends were discussing The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton I was immediately intrigued and wanted to read it.
The book is in many ways fascinating. Britton gives insight into many cases including many that I was already familiar with like Fred and Rose West, Rachel Nickell and James Bulger. He provided details of those cases that I had not heard or read before, at times it felt like a little bit too much information but generally it was fascinating.
Britton displayed some detachment to the cases that he talked about which is understandable, to stay sane when dealing with such horrific crime some detachment is necessary. But it did feel like an unemotional read.
The James Bulger murder is an event that I remember well and I, like many, was horrified when we found out that he had been murdered by two young boys. Britton gives quite a lot of detail on the case including what the boys did to James before and after they killed him. This is not easy reading and is definitely something that has stayed with me since I finished the book. Consider yourself warned.
What Britton had to say about the murder of Rachel Nickell was very interesting, he gives a lot of detail into her murder and his thoughts around who had murdered her. Colin Stagg is discussed at length including the police sting using a female police officer to try and get a confession from him. Given what happened since the book was written, where Britton himself was investigated by the British Psychological Association and at one point was charged with misconduct for his role in the Colin Stagg sting, the charges were later dropped but I couldn’t help but pay a little more attention to what he said about Stagg. What he does is go into great detail about how careful they were to make sure that Stagg was not coerced or led in any way, it felt quite defensive and very much like Britton was saying that he had done absolutely everything by the book and was not at fault in any way.
Whether he was at fault or not I don’t really know, but the theme throughout the book is that Britton is fantastic at his job, loved by the police that he worked with and relied upon to solve numerous cases that he was instrumental in ensuring that the perpetrators were caught and convicted. This did get a little bit wearing and made me start to question how much of each story we were really being told. In something as subjective as psychology and profiling it is surely impossible that someone involved in so many cases didn’t get it wrong once, not even a bit wrong, but that seems to be what Britton thinks, or at least wants his readers to think.
Since finishing the book I have tried to find out a bit more about Paul Britton and it is clear that views are mixed and far more complex than he tries to make his readers think. Some claim that he wasn’t as involved in the cases as he makes out and that he has taken credit for some ideas that came from others. Who knows. Whatever the truth is The Jigsaw Man is a compelling and interesting read that will give the reader insight into police investigations. It is a long book and gives details of crime after crime, all but one or two involving some very unpleasant murders or serious sexual assault, the blackmail case providing a small amount of light relief.
I was surprised about the level of information Britton gives on some very well known crimes and so if you are interested in true crime then this is a book for you, I think that it helps if you remember the main cases that he talks about but this isn’t essential as he will give you more than enough detail. I really did enjoy reading it and found it fascinating, but I would have liked Britton to make himself more human and show that he isn’t perfect and did sometimes get it wrong, and perhaps what he learnt from that. His failure to do that makes me question the book and how true to life it really is, especially when, for example, he states that he believed that The West’s had eaten some of their victims due to marks on the bones, I have not been able to find anything else to substantiate this and even though I know that it would be impossible for it to be proven given the death of Fred West and the silence of Rose, it is something that I would expect to be discussed somewhere if there had been any evidence of that.
It was a good but frustrating read. I’d still read more books by Paul Britton but I’d definitely take what he says with more of a pinch of salt than I did when I started reading this one.
Forensic psychologist Paul Britton asks himself four questions when he is faced with a crime scene: what happened: who is the victim: how was it done, and why? Only when he has the answers to these questions can he address the fifth: who is responsible?
An intensely private and unassuming man, Britton has an almost mythic status in the field of crime deduction because of his ability to ‘walk through the minds’ of those who stalk, abduct, torture, rape and kill other human beings. What he searches for at the scene of a crime are not fingerprints, fibres or blood stains – he looks for the ‘mind trace’ left behind by those responsible; the psychological characteristics that can help police to identify and understand the nature of the perpetrator.
Over the past dozen years he has been at the centre of more than 100 headline-making investigations, from the murder of Jamie Bulger to the abduction of baby Abbie Humphries, the slaying of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common, the pursuit of the Green Chain rapist and the Heinz baby food extortionist, the notorious Gloucester House of Horror and most recently, the murder of Naomi Smith.
Told with humanity and insight, The Jigsaw Man is Paul Britton’s absorbing first-hand account of those cases, and of his groundbreaking analysis and treatment of the criminal mind. It combines the heart-stopping tension of the best detective thriller with his unique and profound understanding of the dark side of the human condition.
About The Author:
He is perhaps the UK’s leading psychological profiler.
Paul Britton was born in 1946. Following degrees obtained in psychology from Warwick and Sheffield universities, he has spent the last twenty years working as a consultant clinical and forensic psychologist. He has advised the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Crime Committee on offender profiling for many years and currently teaches postgraduates in clinical and forensic psychology. He is married with two children. Paul Britton is the author of Picking Up the Pieces and The Jigsaw Man, which won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for Non-Fiction.