Young people are no longer comforted by walls filled with books and, unless they find a new home, more than 80 of my Agatha Christie classics will soon be relegated to a dumpster. Most are paperbacks in English; a few are in Spanish, Italian, Swedish and Dutch.

At an early age, I enjoyed reading about Sherlock Holmes, who penetrated the most brilliant criminal minds Europe had to offer. I then learned of Poirot and Miss Marple and, after two or three readings, could usually find the little clues that never jumped out at me the first time.

Twenty or so years ago, I learned of the great Dutch detective De Cock, who walks the streets of Amsterdam with rain dripping off his hat. After three similar murders, he always “unmasks” the criminal.

If you enjoy detective mysteries, you might get more out of them by reading “Inside the Criminal Mind” (1984) by Stanton E. Samenow, who interviewed hundreds of criminals. Although his science and conclusions are outdated, he recorded how similar criminals are in their thinking. You see it in detective books – if you are aware of it.

You will never know how many people you have met with criminal minds, because only the stupid ones get caught. Perhaps I’m luckier than you are – I can count on one hand those who have fleeced me.

Although women criminals are more successful than men (fewer of them have been caught), with your permission our criminal for this discussion will be a man. Here, from Samenow’s book, are some of the characteristics of a man or woman with a criminal mind. Keeping them in mind as you read any detective novel should make it even more interesting.


He might own a business or run a household. He might run a school or church. He might be in Congress. He exploits his fellow workers and uses his job to promote his own needs. He looks down on hard workers and finds it more gratifying to steal what he wants than to earn it. If he has enough intelligence to accumulate wealth and power, even that, if honestly earned, counts for little. Corporate officers who get rich destroying companies and impoverishing shareholders do not do it for the money but for the pleasure they get by outsmarting others. Their mentality is no different from a man who steals a crate of lobsters.

Criminals are anti-work. Some don’t work at all while holding jobs that look respectable while stealing from their employer. Some hardly sleep. They work day and night as a cover, as it enables them to steal without becoming a suspect.

The criminal thinks he is more capable than others and can do a top-notch job. He knows that he will be a success if others will recognize his brilliance and put him in charge. When he gets a good job, he has contempt for those who promoted him. Status is more important than the work he does. He abuses the authority of his job and uses it to help himself and not the company. He is a critic of others but cannot take advice and makes executive decisions to suit himself. His opinions are royal decrees.

Some criminals in power are smooth but mentally dismiss advice and quietly do as they please. They are in a position to steal from the company by cooking the books, taking kickbacks or selling confidential information.

Rural newspapers are filled with stories of criminals who create companies that promise products or services and then provide neither. They gloat after every successful con. Even stealing an elderly widow’s savings means nothing to them.

A criminal believes that his wife, his lover, his mother and everyone he knows are to blame for his being in jail. They all let him down. He writes them nasty letters which make them feel guilty. Some believe his being in jail is their fault. His mother sends him money. He laughs at her stupidity and demands more. He is always the victim, curses everybody in a loud voice for what they are doing to him and threatens revenge.

Even if you don’t read detective books, you might now do a bit of research before hiring a smooth-talking man to hot-top your driveway.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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