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When a Killer Calls

By: John E. Douglas,Mark Olshaker
Narrated by: Keith Sellon-Wright
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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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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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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EXCELLENT

This story had me glued from start to finish. It draws you in.
A sad story , in Which two families lives were changed forever, by one evil man.
Expertly written and narrated.

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Great narration and story telling.

Really enjoyed this true crime book. The narrator was really strong and the story flowed well. Horrible crime but very well written book.

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brilliant all round

it was gripping from the beginning & after listening to a podcast about the case I had to listen. was not disapoappointing!

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loved it.


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

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  • PenName
  • 06-02-22

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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • 6catz
  • 02-02-22

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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  • John Rinaldi
  • 02-02-22

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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  • Hannah
  • 06-02-22

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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  • kim fiscus
  • 20-03-22

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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  • Tammy R
  • 18-02-22

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

1 person found this helpful

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  • Carla
  • 17-02-22

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • john romer
  • 22-11-22

Very compelling from beginning to end!

Loved it! After the original “Mindhunter”, this is my favorite John Douglas book. Thank you.

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  • Nay
  • 23-10-22

Excellent Book

Narration was great. Easy to listen to. Story keeps you coming back. Worth the purchase.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-10-22

Spellbinding

What wonderful insight into the mind of one of the most brilliant profilers the FBI has ever seen. This book was everything I hoped it would be!