What if the FBI forced recruits to read paranormal crime thrillers? ‹ CrimeReads
During twelve intense weeks at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, I learned how to analyze crime scene evidence, obtain information from informants, and detect a liar from a hundred yards away. . As a brand new intelligence analyst, however, my training program (unfortunately) did not include reading about immortal demons, parallel universes, or reincarnation. Because that would have been ridiculous. A complete waste of time. To the right?
Well, maybe not.
Paranormal crime thrillers, where these fantasy concepts thrive, don’t obey the clear and orderly rules of the universe. And in my experience at the Bureau, neither the smartest of criminals nor the sneakiest of enemy spies. Granted, in the hundreds of cases I’ve worked on, I’ve rarely (okay, never) come across a true malevolent spirit reborn in the body of a third-grader, but my love of supernatural mystery novels made me has always given an advantage when fighting in the real world. villains and girls. That’s because this particular genre of fiction trains readers to expect the impossible, shed their unconscious biases, and examine the world from unorthodox, borderline bizarre viewpoints.
Flex that smart bicep
The legendary former head of the CIA’s Technical Services Bureau, Antonio Mendez, wrote in his book spy dust about his team’s struggles to evade Soviet detection in Moscow. It was the mid-1980s, at the height of the Cold War, and the KGB always seemed to be one step ahead, constantly preventing CIA intelligence operatives from carrying out any sort of meaningful operations in the Soviet capital. . “I think we need to expand threat assessment to include more unconventional ideas,” he recalls in conclusion. “We have to think of new thoughts. FBI special agents and analysts should follow the same advice. There is some truth in the old adage: the worst failures of intelligence are in fact failures of imagination.
David Hoover wrote about this phenomenon in his article American Journal of Intelligence. He blamed disastrous security blind spots, such as the failure to consider that terrorists would use commercial airliners as weapons before 9/11, on the FBI’s overreliance on logical, linear thinking. “Convergent and linear thinking,” he explains, “has served us well in science, engineering, and manufacturing.” However, it falls short in the fields of social science, politics, diplomacy, business, and any other field where “human decision-making must be considered.”
by Stephen King the stranger offers a near-perfect example of what happens when law enforcement is too closed to these unpredictable “human” factors. In King’s speculative police procedural, a beloved Little League coach, Terry Maitland, is arrested for the brutal murder of a team boy. Witnesses report seeing Terry with the child shortly before his presumed time of death. Terry professes his innocence, but the forensic evidence doesn’t help his case. DNA, fingerprints and CCTV footage all point to his guilt. And hey, that’s real science! The cops are focused on Terry, and rightly so, but when more details emerge, the decided case quickly becomes maddeningly confusing. A jaded homicide detective with the local PD struggles to overcome his “linear thinking” desperately, despite the investigation’s growing demand to do so.
Similarly, in my latest psychological thriller, Don’t come near, a rookie FBI special agent must deal with the possibility that a dangerous suicide bomber may actually be the reincarnation of a domestic terrorist. The protagonists of these two stories must put aside logic and accept that the impossible may, in fact, be possible.
The FBI should train new recruits to do the same. Otherwise, investigators handling cases with closed minds could lead to tragic results. How many times have federal agents pored over a first piece of evidence, locked in on a single suspect, and then ignored any new information that undermined the agreed upon narrative? At the FBI, I used to call these people “tire screamers.” Just throw a piece of (seemingly irrefutable) forensic evidence at them, and you could practically smell the smoke billowing from the wide wheels of their Crown Vic as they sped away to make the arrest. Let’s stop this one day, and clink those beer mugs, guys. Not so fast.
Unfortunately, in a criminal justice system that rewards convictions at all costs, real, messy, nonlinear truth can be crushed. But as humans, we have built-in protection – the fibrous tissue pulsating between our ears, capable of imagining almost anything. Imaginative thinking not only helps law enforcement solve the toughest cases, but can also prevent them from being intentionally deceived. If a few drops of blood, a strand of hair, and a smear of semen are enough to give federal investigators tunnel vision, then we’re doomed. Reading the crazy plots of paranormal thrillers will exercise the mind muscles that make our FBI a powerful crime-fighting force.
Escape the glowing rectangle
In his brilliant Cold War memoirs, Moscow Rules, former CIA disguise chief Jonna Mendez remembers teaming up with Hollywood illusionists and special effects experts to invent new ways to fool the KGB. She knew that stage magicians understood that the only way to completely fool an audience was to control their point of view. People seated in stationary chairs in a dimly lit auditorium have exactly one point of view, and a skilled interpreter is acutely aware of what their clients can and cannot see at all times. Cinema works the same way. The director gives the viewer a luminous rectangle through which to experience the universe. She decides exactly what appears in that frame and when it appears.
As a professional spy, Jonna used these tricks of the trade to her advantage to manipulate enemy perception just enough for American agents to slip through the cracks.
During my tenure at the FBI, I worked on the other side of this spy game. As a member of the Bureau’s Counterintelligence Division, I helped hunt, track, and disrupt foreign spies attempting to operate within our country borders. Too often I feared that our own perspective was too narrow or worse, susceptible to manipulation by the enemy. Were these foreign agents hiding critical operational signals in seemingly mundane activities? Did a KIO, a known intelligence officer, from China or Russia, place three oranges in his grocery cart to secretly communicate with a local source? Or did he just enjoy a juicy snack? My team couldn’t take any action for granted, no matter how harmless. To do our job effectively, we couldn’t allow the enemy to dominate the scene or define the outlines of this luminous form on the screen.
Fortunately, novels do not have the same limitations as visual entertainment media. The world within the pages of a book is as vast as the author wishes and as textured as the reader’s imagination allows. We can jump from head to head, first entering the mind of the hero to teleport into the twisted thoughts of the villain. by Stuart Turton The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a masterclass in this literary technique. In this groundbreaking story, Aiden Bishop wakes up every morning and repeats the same day, a day that always ends with Evelyn’s murder. But it’s not warm groundhog daystyle tale, and there’s a major plot twist: Aiden experiences each new day through the perspective of a different character. Only by experimenting with these various points of view can he recreate the crime from all angles and attempt to solve the mystery.
Federal investigators must learn to think the same way. They must enter the minds of perpetrators, victims, witnesses – all characters – until they can confidently reveal a three-dimensional picture of the truth. Otherwise, they’re just sitting in the dark, staring at a flickering box of light.
The FBI cases I enjoyed the most were the ones that made my colleagues want to pluck their eyebrows. Conflicting evidence, inconsistent testimonials and lots of missing pieces – I still smile just thinking about it all. Sometimes I could convince people to indulge me and play a little game I called “That’s crazy!” (Cue nerdy game show theme song.) We would sit and think about the most outlandish explanations for the cases. The person with the craziest rationalization wins. Once you find yourself passionately defending seemingly absurd possibilities, even the weirdest reality doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
So should the FBI add some paranormal thrillers to Quantico’s must-read list? Absolutely. Because if it does, even the most creative terrorists, criminals, and enemy spies won’t stand a chance.
All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not those of the FBI.