The Case of Dennis Nilsen
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 Calling his February 1983 arrest ``the day help arrived,'' London civil-servant Dennis Nilsen, a former constable, readily confessed to the murder and dismemberment of 15 young men who'd visited his apartment. Here, Masters (The Life of E.F. Benson- -1992), with the full cooperation of Nilsen, tells the serial killer's story in shocking detail. Like Jeffrey Dahmer, Masters says, Nilsen has a penchant for ``florid necrophilia.'' But unlike Dahmer, Nilsen has proven extroverted and loquacious, with his prison journals, poetry, and letters to Masters thoroughly describing his crimes (complete with sketches). Nilsen was arrested after a plumber found bits of flesh clogging the piping at the killer's home. He confessed almost immediately, informing detectives that he'd strangled three youths at the current address and ``about thirteen'' at his previous one. While Nilsen had buried some remains in a nearby garden after chopping and burning them, he directed police to a bathroom cupboard and tea chest, where they found boiled skulls, as well as hands, legs, and odd portions of flesh he'd yet to dispose of. Masters writes perceptively and revealingly about Nilsen's early years in Scotland, his military service, and his adulthood; he also relates Nilsen's grisly description of December 30, 1978, ``the night things began to go terribly wrong'' in his search for companionship through London's ``soul-destroying pub scene'' and ``arid homosexual subculture.'' With disturbing matter-of-factness, Masters details the first killing--similar to all the rest--of an Irish youth: strangling the victim; bathing, dressing, and then undressing the body; attempting sex with the corpse; burying it; digging it up and dressing it again; and, finally, dismembering and disposing of the remains. Genuinely frightening--and not for weak stomachs. (Thirty b&w photos and line drawings--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42425-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993