When a Killer Calls
February 7, 2022

Book Review

When a Killer Calls

reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo



Shari Smith was seventeen on May 31, 1985, and by all accounts, her future was bright. It is the day before her high school graduation in Columbia, South Carolina, and her parents expect her back from a pool party she has been to with her friend, Brenda Boozer, and her boyfriend, Richard Lawson.

Shari is slated to sing the National Anthem before her graduation ceremony and her entire class is going on a vacation to a Caribbean island. She had big plans to live in Charlotte and perform at Carowinds, a large amusement park. She had it all; a bright future, a wonderful boyfriend, loving and deeply religious family and a great number of friends. 

Sadly, Shari’s life is cut short. As she stops at the end of her long driveway to get the mail, she is kidnapped. Her father finds the car still running with her bag still on the passenger side. There are footprints leading to the mailbox, but that is where they stop.

The Police are called immediately but there is no sign of Shari. When the calls from the kidnapper begin, he admits to having Shari and tells her sister and mother to expect a letter in the mail. The next day, Shari’s family receives the Last Will and Testament, written with love by Shari to her family. The letter is haunting as she knows she is about to be murdered, but expresses her last wishes and urges her family to move on with love. After they receive the letter, the FBI is called in to take over the case before it is too late to find Shari alive. Sadly, her body was found a few days later. Almost simultaneously, nine-year-old Debra May Helmick is kidnapped from her front yard with her little brother watching. Her body is also found several days later after a call from her kidnapper directing them to the body.

John Douglas was the inventor of the criminal profiling system. He and a coworker went to different prisons to interview killers. He has worked on many famous cases, including the Green River Killer and the Atlanta child murders. After the murders of Shari Smith and Debra May Helmick, Douglas flew to South Carolina and was able to create a profile of the killer to help the police narrow down their search.  

This is my first book by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Douglas has conducted hundreds of interviews with the world’s most notorious serial killers, including Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz and James Earl Ray. He is considered to be the most authoritative voice in criminal profiling. Douglas and Olshaker have written many books on the process of criminal profiling and how it is effective in finding serial killers. As a fan of true crime, I am happy to discover and read their other books.

When a Killer Calls is available at:


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