First published back in November of 1991 (US) and January of 1992 (UK), true crime writer Don Davis’ book ‘The Milwaukee Murders’ detailed the life and crimes of one of the most notorious serial killers to have ever lived – dubbed the real-life Hannibal Lecter - Jeffrey Dahmer.

DLS Synopsis:
Early in the morning on Monday the 27th May 1991, a young boy is found naked, in a drug-induced state, walking the streets with signs of bleeding from the anus.  The two women that find the dazed boy duly call for the police.  Meanwhile, a young white male by the name of Jeffrey Dahmer arrives at the scene and tries to take the boy away with him.  However, the women are having none of it and insist that they wait for the police to arrive.

However, when two police officers eventually arrive, they believe Dahmer’s explanation that the young boy is his nineteen-year-old boyfriend, and that the two of them had simply had an argument after the boy had gotten drunk.  Despite a barrage of protests from the two women, the officers hand the boy back to Dahmer, escorting them into Dahmer’s apartment, of which they later recall had a strange smell about it.

However, unbeknown to the two officers, they had just handed back fourteen-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone to the man that would be his killer.  Furthermore, had the officers investigated Dahmer’s apartment further, they would have discovered the discomposing body of thirty-one-year-old deaf mute Tony Hughes laid sprawled out in his bedroom.

Dahmer had killed time and time again before his encounter with the two painfully incompetent police officers.  In fact, Dahmer already had a long line of murders under his belt by this stage.  But it was what he did with his victims following their death that would eventually shock the entire world over.  For Dahmer was a paedophile, rapist, remorseless killer, necrophiliac and cannibal.

It would take the murder of seventeen men and boys before Dahmer was eventually revealed for the beast that he was and duly arrested.  However, it was only after his horrific reign of terror was brought to an end that we were to learn of how the police had had every opportunity to uncover Dahmer’s horrifying secret on numerous occasions.  But by the time they finally acted, seventeen men and boys had already died at the sexual monster’s hands.  But that’s unpleasantness of hindsight for you.

However, as we look back we can see that Dahmer wasn’t born a monster.  But as he grew, this dark deviance grew inside of him.  Consuming him.  Five years on probation for drugging and then indecently assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy did nothing to hinder Dahmer’s lust-fuelled deviancy.  He was already on a spiralling path that was leading him somewhere beyond our worst nightmares.  And in 1978 the murders began...

DLS Review:
True crime author Don Davis begins his book on the infamous serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, with the near escape of his twelfth victim – fourteen-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone.  Davis’ depiction of what happened that early morning is as terrifying as it is utterly infuriating.  It literally sends shivers down your spine at how close this desperate young boy got to getting away from Dahmer – his soon to be killer.  Having two officers there to rescue him, the relief must have been incredible.  And then the realisation that the two officers were just going to hand him back over to Dahmer without doing so much as a quick background check on the man or indeed the boy – it’s the stuff of nightmares.  And Davis, in his descriptive writing style, has painted this tragic picture to an absolute tee.  It’s a hell of an opening chapter for the book to start off with.

From here Davis jumps backwards to the 1970’s, sketching over Jeffrey Dahmer’s upbringing in Summit County, Ohio, where a number of key moments in Dahmer’s adolescent life are brought to the table.  Davis purposefully focuses on these handfuls of changes in his life, invariably pondering on their impact on the young boy that would later turn into the serial killer that would end up shocking the world with such a long string of heinous crimes.

Detailing the gradual change in Dahmer from beginning off with a bullied joker in the pack, Davis lays down a frightening almost natural progression from one action to another, until we’re at the book’s third chapter where Dahmer’s first kill is detailed.  Police incompetence once again plays a key role in Davis’ account of Dahmer’s murderous activities – with unsubtle-finger-pointing designed to spark off another bout of frustrated fury from the reader.

Davis knows how to write a good story.  And that’s exactly what he does from start to finish.  The book reads like a novel, punctuating chapters with brutal events and hard-hitting depictions of Dahmer’s obsessive cruelty.

Chapter after chapter, Davis relives the murders, the ghoulish dismemberment and cannibalism, without pulling any punches.  There’s no casual suggestion at what followed, but a regurgitation of the crimes in what we believe is their entirety.  And Davis delivers it all in such a way that it just builds and it engulfs the reader with its escalation and its snowballing horror.

There’s still a hell of a lot of questions left in the air surrounding Dahmer, his crimes and ultimately his motivations.  What was it that triggered him to spiral further and further into these depths of vicious depravity?  Davis asks a host of these difficult questions.  And then he brings up lacklustre suggestive theories, with only a very faint degree of psychological backing.  However, what comes across in the latter half of the book is that Davis is more of a writer than he is a criminal psychologist, or even someone who’s done any sort of first-hand investigation or research.  And this is where the book ultimately falls down.

Along with details of Dahmer’s extensive trial, his persona and his sentence, Davis attempts to look into serial killers within a much wider spectrum.  Davis looks at the social and cultural aspects as well as lightly pondering upon the whole ‘nature vs nurture’ argument.  To be brutally honest, it’s all very much the usual run-of-the-mill stuff which really wasn’t needed here.

The end result is a book that reads incredibly well, depicting the life and crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, from childhood, though his murderous adult life, to his arrest, prosecution, sentencing and his final incarceration.  Outside of the author’s ponderings on Dahmer’s motivations and serial killers on the whole, the book is a tightly written and insightful document of the life of Dahmer.  For that alone it deserves much merit.  However, it is let down by the author’s apparent need to inject his own thoughts into the subject matter within a wider scope.  Had the book been about serial killers in general these last chapters would have formed a good introductory chapter or two – but as it stands, it’s just more of the same, which somewhat ruins the last quarter of the book, making it feel like padding for what had been up until then a riveting and utterly compelling read.

Since the book’s publication (in 1991), Dahmer was assaulted in prison on two separate occasions – the last one resulting in his death in November of 1994.  Therefore the book does not include any details on this final chapter in Dahmer’s life - which is an unfortunate shame.

The book runs for a total of 290 pages and includes eight glossy pages of black and white photographs of Dahmer and a selection of his victims as well as an eight-page chronology of dates and events at the end of the book.

© DLS Reviews

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