This guest book review was kindly written by Maggie Dobschuetz, who is better known to many of you on Twitter as Storme Lightningbane @SLightningbane and on Instagram as Mindlessmarytr. Maggie has a Bachelors of Art degree in English from a small private college in Wisconsin, where she lives today. Maggie hates cheese, but thinks cows are cute. As well as loving books and enjoying writing reviews, Maggie is fascinated with true crime and is THE authority on true crime podcasts. Check out her book review blog which can be found here.
“The corpse is the dirty platter after the feast”.
Or how Nilsen vehemently denies he ever engaged in necrophilia or cannibalism.
Dennis Nilsen is a less intense version of Jeffery Dahmer. He murdered 15 young men over the span of four years, but he doesn’t express remorse and doesn’t even really know why he murdered these men. He isn’t an insane man. He is articulate, intelligent and introverted. His love for death started as a child and escalated into cold blooded murder. This is a short piece about what this book contains, but it is really much deeper.
This isn’t a true crime thriller at all. Instead, it is a deep analysis of Dennis Nilsen, complied by the author from letters and interviews with Nilsen himself. The book is very dark and doesn’t skip on details. In fact, there are very explicit details of the murders told by Nilsen in letters and from other first hand sources. The reader is given a chance to delve deep into who the murderer is, spanning from his early life all the way to his capture and incarceration. This book provides a lot of details about his life and his stages of emotions and how he changes over time.
At times it can be a lot to take in, sometimes you can be easily overwhelmed with details. Often, I was wondering why I needed to know every little piece of his life, but I think it did well to build upon who he was and why he committed such heinous murders for no explicable reason.
The author breaks down the book into 10 chapters. From his arrest to his childhood all the way to Victims, Disposal, and Answers. Masters expounds the importance of the death of his grandfather to childhood and how Nilsen became sexually aroused by death and corpses during adolescence to who his victims were and his methodology of disposing of the bodies. Masters tries to explain why Nilsen acted so horribly by going through various psychological reasoning such as schizophrenic tendencies, sexual aberrations, and even if there was some aspect of necrophilia involved.
Building upon the letters and interviews, Masters provides a full account of why this happened and how the answers can never be fully clear. The courts found Nilsen wasn’t insane by any means but there’s still no reasoning for why. Nielsen would say at times he didn’t remember all of the details yet he could also give explicit details about the method of murder along with the rituals and disposal. He was fascinated by death so he was enamoured with the bodies. He, as the murderer, had all of the power and possessed the ability to control each of his victims’ fates. So he would strangle them, wash their bodies, sometimes masturbate on the bodies, and then shove them under the floor until he could find a way to get rid of them. At times getting rid of the bodies would mean burning them or his super genius idea of flushing them down the toilet… which ultimately led to his demise because the plumbing became backed up at his house and the flesh chunks were traced back to his house. I mean… it should have been obvious it was a bad choice to literally dump pieces of a body down pipes and expect them to just go away.
The postscript of the book is very insightful. It shares how drinking alcohol may have played a larger role in the murders than the author of the book thought… which makes sense when one thinks about other murderers such as Jeffery Dahmer and Ted Bundy who also drank to excess. Perhaps the drinking numbed them enough to allow them to carry out the murders?
The book shares about how Nilsen made very detailed drawings of victims where he saw the corpses as “beautiful.” He also wrote “Real and beautiful- and dead.” Nielsen appeared to see himself dying in each victim and found beauty in that, like the only way he could ever be loved was by these dead men whose bodies he later just burned or shoved into bags like it meant nothing. He had a strange love for death and found a twisted sense of romance at looking at what he had done to these innocent men. Nilsen was a man who wanted company. But he only found it worthwhile once they were dead.
One of my favorite parts of this book was how Masters referred to other serial killers. He mentions John Wayne Gacy, Peter Sutcliffe, Norman Collins, and even Edmund Kemper. The author included this piece about Kemper stating, “….burying the head in his garden facing the house, so that he could imagine the victim looking at him.” This reminds me of how Nilsen took one of his victims from the closet and would have inane conversations with him and also placed him on the couch so they could watch tv together. The author even talks about how serial killers are becoming less rare and may represent a “motiveless” criminal who is an accepted part of society.
Overall, this book provides great insight into how Nilsen killed men he liked so they wouldn’t be able to leave him. However, the real reason for why Nilsen did what he did is still elusive. This book is gripping and chilling… it gives the reader great knowledge of how even despite what Nilsen did… he is still human. A sad, lonely human who just wanted some company and would do anything necessary to receive it.