The Jigsaw Man, A Book Review

If anyone reading is interested in crime, psychology or criminal profiling I am sure you have read or have heard of ‘The Jigsaw Man’ and for those who aren’t many will connect Paul Britton with the highly publicised news coverage regarding the murder of Rachel Nickell in 1992. I have had this particular book on my ‘to read’ list for years! However I have only just managed to get around to reading this and how I wish I had read it a long time ago! The Jigsaw Man was published in 1997 and documents the start of Britton’s venture into profiling, a controversial topic which I will try to remain impartial on for purposes of this review. The first few chapters introduce you slowly to Paul Britton, it covers parts of his family life, his journey into psychology, his work with the NHS and how he, unintentionally, became involved in aiding the police with his criminal profiling.
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Many of the cases Britton has worked on are familiar to those who have no interest in crime at all from Fred & Rose West, James Bulger, the Heinz baby food extortionist, the murder of Rachel Nickell and many more. The Jigsaw Man is broken down into very readable chapters and each one left me wanting to go on straight away to the next, which resulted in it not taking long to complete this 454 page book. Although I have read entire books dedicated to a number of the cases covered there was still information which was new to me and it provided a new angle to view these particular cases. I found the first half of the book informative, with a good balance between fact and Britton’s feelings, however the further you read the more of Britton’s real emotions came through and it displays the effect the job was having on his home life. I was intrigued to get to the part of the book covering the Nickell case as this was where I first heard of Paul Britton, as I am sure many others did, and this is where a lot of controversy around Britton and profiling seems to lie. I found that the subsequent chapters carried a more sombre message and it was clear that the work undertaken by Britton was beginning to take a real effect.
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Amazon has a number of negative reviews on The Jigsaw Man, many of which say that Britton is trying to ‘take the limelight’ for a number of the cases, which to me did not come through at all. I read the book knowing it was a personal account and so fully expected personal views.
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I did however think that the second half of the book left a number of things unclear about the Rachel Nickell case, which I suspect is a motivation for many to read this book. I have a read a number of books on the murder of Rachel Nickell, each from a different perspective, and all are entitled to put forward their version of events which may leave the reader feeling as though they have more questions than answers and frustration that someone can’t be held accountable. Of course when dealing with the emotions that come from such a tragic event followed by the arguably prejudiced investigation against Colin Stagg many people want someone who can be held somewhat responsible for missed opportunities and failures in an investigation.

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I found certain areas were slightly repetitive but Britton is foremost a psychologist and not a novelist.
For anyone wanting to learn more about certain cases which may be covered in this book I wouldn’t say it is a must read as there are many more detailed accounts of individual cases. I would recommend it for those who want an insight into profiling and a look at the covered crimes from a personable view of someone who has a great deal of psychological experience. It discusses the wider implications for a career of this kind and Britton’s personal motivations for continuing his work, which I will not spoil for those who wish to go on and read this book.

There is a follow up book, Picking Up The Pieces, which I will get round to reading as soon as possible and I will do a post featuring the two together and if the second book has changed any of my thoughts. I would be very keen to hear anyone’s thoughts on either of these books.
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6 thoughts on “The Jigsaw Man, A Book Review

  1. Hi Sophie, found your blog last Thursday. It makes great reading! I’m studying for a psychology degree with the OU. I thought your review of The Jigsaw Man was interesting, prompting me to buy a copy for myself. I’m only just past the Pedigree/Heinz case but I agree with you, the book makes compulsive reading. I like Britton’s relaxed style, coming across more as a biography than a text book. In some places it almost reads like a crime novel, I can see the influences of Conan Doyle (who he mentions early on in the book). I’m looking forward to finishing the book and going on to Picking Up the Pieces (which I bought at the same time).

    Thanks again for a great blog!

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting! Found the Jigsaw Man so hard to put down! I’m half way through Picking Up the Pieces and I *think* I am enjoying Picking up the Pieces a little more, there is much more focus on Britton’s clinical work for the NHS, which I am finding fascinating! Half way through and only just discussing one of the ‘bigger’ names which are familiar to most. Will post a review once finished and would be keen to hear how you feel once you have finished the two 🙂
    Sophie

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