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Elizabeth Heiter | The “Why” in Crime: Creating a Behavioral Profile


In real life, when there’s a horrible, seemingly inexplicable crime, people crowd around the TV to watch interviews with the people who knew the perpetrator best, wanting to know: How could this seemingly normal person do something so shocking? And even more, why did he do it? Did those around him know something was off or was everyone surprised?

In real life, we like to speculate about motive and it’s often a key component in criminal trials when it comes to putting the person behind bars. Often, it’s hard to believe someone is guilty until we’re told why he would do it.

In fiction, the same thing is true. I’d venture to say that if you’ve ever thrown a mystery against the wall because you don’t buy who the bad guy turns out to be, it probably has to do with motive. You don’t buy into the big reveal because this person didn’t seem to have a strong enough reason to commit the crime.

Traditionally, “police procedurals” have really focused on the who and the how, but the why is just as important – and I think, often the most interesting piece. That’s one of the reasons I love writing an FBI profiler in my psychological suspense series. It’s not really her job to figure out who or how, not exactly; it’s her job to look at a crime scene, at who the victim was, and even if the perpetrator didn’t personally know the victim, it’s her job to tell you why he killed her. And if she does her job well, the why will lead you to who. Or sometimes, if we already know who, a profiler can predict what they’ll do next.

That’s the case in my most recent Profiler story, SEIZED. FBI profiler Evelyn Baine follows another agent to the compound of what has been deemed a “harmless” cult, where she intends to meet the leader and give her own profile of his threat level. When she arrives at the compound, though – deep in the Montana wilderness, near where the Unabomber’s cabin was located – she and the other agent are taken captive. Once inside, she becomes certain this group is a much bigger threat than they seem. By watching their interactions and listening to their rhetoric, she can predict they’re planning a terrorist attack.

The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team is outside, trying to negotiate her release, but Evelyn knows this leader won’t let her go. She also knows that she needs to tell the FBI her profile before the group unleashes their attack, but if HRT breaches the compound to get her, she’ll be the first casualty.

You can find out what happens – and more about the intricacies of how a profile is built – in SEIZED. For a chance to win a copy, visit the Fresh Fiction contest

About Elizabeth Heiter

Elizabeth Heiter

Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. Fresh Fiction called her debut suspense HUNTED a "fast paced and thrilling start to a new series," Affaire de Coeur gave it 5 stars, calling it "very well done with a fantastic ending," and Bookreporter said HUNTED was "a thriller that grabs readers from the first page...Heiter has hit a high note right at the start of her writing career!"

The Profiler | Lawmen





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