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Publisher's Summary

From John Douglas—the legendary FBI criminal profiler, number-one New York Times best-selling author, and inspiration for the Netflix show Mindhunter—comes a chilling journey inside the mind and crimes of Larry Gene Bell, one of the most dangerous serial killers Douglas confronted, and the desperate effort to identify and catch him.

On May 31, 1985, two days before her high school graduation, Shari Smith was abducted from the driveway of her family home in South Carolina. Based on the crime scene and the abductor’s repeated and taunting calls to the family, law enforcement quickly realized they were dealing with a sophisticated and highly dangerous criminal. A letter arrived the next day entitled “Last Will & Testament,” in which Shari, knowing she was to be murdered, wrote bravely and achingly of her love for her parents, siblings, and boyfriend, saying that while they would miss her, she knew they would persevere through their faith. The abduction rocked her quiet town, triggering a massive manhunt and bringing in the FBI, which enlisted profiler John Douglas. A few days later, a phone call told the family where they could find Shari’s body.

Then nine-year-old Debra May Helmick was kidnapped from her yard, confirming the harsh realization that Smith’s murder was no random act. A serial killer was evolving, and the only way to stop him would be to use the study of criminal behavior to anticipate his next move before he could kill again. Douglas devised a risky and emotionally fraught strategy to use Shari’s lookalike older sister Dawn as bait to draw out the unknown subject. Dawn and her parents courageously agreed.

One of the most haunting investigations of Douglas’s storied career, this case details how the eerily accurate profile he created—alongside his carefully crafted and stage-managed manipulation of the killer’s psychology—combined with dedicated police work and cutting-edge forensic science to end a reign of criminal terror. As Shari’s family took incredible personal risks to lure her killer from the shadows, Douglas and the FBI pushed criminal profiling to its limits, culminating in one of his most dramatic and effective confrontations with a sadistic and remorseless killer.

©2021 John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about When a Killer Calls

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Fascinating and Horrifying

Whether classified as a science or an art, when criminal profiling is this accurate it is nothing short of mind blowing. Be prepared to wrap your your mind around the unfathomable cruelty of the perpetrator in this case. Reviewers often object to Douglas’s tendency to cite his own accomplishments in his books, but I say this pioneer (and others) of this technique have made the world a safer better place. Blow your horn all you like John. I’m grateful for all you’ve done.

9 people found this helpful

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Anticipated & disappointed

I pre-ordered this book, I LOVE Mindhunter (book & Netflix), sadly I found the first three chapters almost unbearably boring and disjointed.

It felt more like fictional storytelling focusing too heavily on Christianity, idyllic families and towns, typical mid to upper class stereotypes, and sadly, white privilege. I found myself longing for professionalism, analytical reasoning, and, especially, objectivity.

I will not be keeping this audio book.

I found the details of the cases very interesting and value the mental health v. criminality discussion.

Having read an article on spotting fake Amazon reviews, one should think critically regarding reviews biased on receiving items at no cost.

Thanks for listening.

8 people found this helpful

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Another Excellent Book from Douglas/Olshaker!

Story 4.5/5
Narration 5/5

The case of Larry Gene Bell, from start to finish, including the profiling process.

Very interesting! The only problem was that Douglas included his "viral encephalitis" story... Again!

Highly recommended

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Disappointed John Douglas fan

I have eagerly read all of Douglas’s previous books and have had this one on preorder. Was excited to finally read it!However, this one lacked what the other books did soo well-the connections and profiling work were not center stage. And this crime was not even especially unique. The profiling isn’t what got the offender caught, and Douglas didn’t play a major role in any part of the case.

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Very interesting book

I have read several of his books and they are very truthful and told from the right point of view

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Too dry

I tried reading but after a couple chapters I had to quit.
Tried to return for credit but could t find the option to do so

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It’s ok

I’m a fan of JD and have read all his books. I was disappointed in this one . The material in this book I have heard In others.

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Excellent!

One of Douglas’ best, and I’ve read them all. Kept me hooked until the very end.

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Enjoyed this story

I’m a big true crime fan and an even bigger fan of John Douglas and the work he has done. Listening to the telling of his work on this case kept me intrigued from start to finish. I looked forward when I could put my earbuds in and listen while working. The cases are interesting and the narrator keeps you involved. Would recommend this as a listen and also a read.

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Not his best but still good.

I enjoyed this book. It was told well and fascinating. The facts were told in a well organized way so that it was easy to follow the case. Wrapped up nicely as well. It didn't have any nonsensical moments not having to do with the story even though not really any of his books do.

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  • crochetdiva
  • 02-03-22

Very disturbing

it's always sad when a young person dies, but when it's at a deranged killers hand it is sickening. This is something that needs telling, but you need a strong stomach to hear the details.

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  • Stevie Mc
  • 03-09-22

loved it.


fantastic book, horrific story but extremely interesting. would recommend if you're a fan of true crime.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-09-22

Mediocre

I have listened to all the available John e Douglas books on here, and I do not think this one lives up to his usual standard. I feel like Douglas is best when he is dissecting the minds of criminals rather than a retelling of a complete case, which he has done here.
I feel if you are a fan of true crime, then you will likely enjoy this book, however there are better Douglas books so I would leave this one till last and only go for it if you've listened to the others first.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-05-22

Bit of a letdown

I'm an avid consumer of all John Douglas' work. I had been waiting eagerly for this but was unfortunately disappointed. The story/case is presented well enough but the narrator made me cringe. Would still recommend a read but don't expect anything revolutionary. Solid average.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-22

A true crime experience

I thoroughly enjoyed all the aspects of this book, not discounting these as despicable crimes against vulnerable girls. Victim and perpetrator background brings the characters in the events to life, an insight from the criminal behaviouralists narrows the suspect pool, and relentless hours logged by dedicated law enforcement that eventually brought the offender to answer, makes for a compelling and sophisticated read.