Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes!

Here’s a little info about the book:

Welcome to the world of the forensic psychologist, where the people you meet are wildly unpredictable and often frightening.

The job: to delve into the psyche of convicted men and women to try to understand what lies behind their often brutal actions.

Follow in the footsteps of Kerry Daynes, one of the most sought-after forensic psychologists in the business and consultant on major police investigations.

Kerry’s job has taken her to the cells of maximum-security prisons, police interview rooms, the wards of secure hospitals and the witness box of the court room.

Her work has helped solve a cold case, convict the guilty and prevent a vicious attack.

Spending every moment of your life staring into the darker side of life comes with a price. Kerry’s frank memoir gives an unforgettable insight into the personal and professional dangers in store for a female psychologist working with some of the most disturbing men and women.

And about author Kerry Daynes:

Kerry Daynes is a Consultant and Forensic Psychologist, speaker and media commentator. For over twenty years her average week has involved working with everything from stressed-out parents to serial killers and she is a sought-after court-appointed expert witness. Kerry regularly appears on international television networks and in the media; she was ‘The Profiler’ over three series of Discovery’s top-rated ‘Faking It’ documentaries. Kerry is Patron of the National Centre for Domestic Violence and Talking2Minds. She is an advocate for better conversations about mental distress and alternatives to the culture of psychological ‘disorder’. Kerry lives in Cheshire with two huge dogs and yes, she is a proud natural ginger.

And here’s Paul Burke’s review of The Dark Side of the Mind:

Early on in her career Daynes learned a valuable lesson from an 80-year-old resident of a secure unit. Maurice liked to shock women, he played a cruel practical joke on the young forensic psychologist but it taught her a something about doing her job. If she was going to work with people with highly disturbed backgrounds she needed to control her emotional response to their issues. Learning from her patients, she prefers the term clients, which is a theme of this book. Each case study is a story in itself but it’s also about what Daynes takes away from it too.

Daynes became a forensic psychologist to understand the mental processes behind a criminal act, to help people and to reduce re-offending. I’m paraphrasing and truncating here but she feels her job to be about changing behaviour and helping people back into society. Her assessments inform judges, juries, the parole board, police and mental health teams. Daynes stresses that she doesn’t just work with offenders but victims too. Reading this book it’s pretty clear some people are both.

Although most of the case studies involve violence and/or abuse in one form or another this is not about serial killers, although where relevant they crop up by way of illustration. As Daynes points out in her interview in the afterword (there’s also a readers group guide):

“. . .why are we so fascinated by serial killers?”
“I’m not sure, as some of the serial killers I’ve met have been quite dull company.”

Daynes refers to the cases here as heart-breaking, enraging and occasionally weird, I can only agree. Before we get to the case studies Daynes is clear we are mistaken when asking: “What is wrong with these people?” it’s not nuanced, it’s a way of othering offenders and it doesn’t lead to any greater understanding of these people.

Daynes first job was at Wakefield, a prison with a high proportion of sex offenders. The misogyny and sexism of the system twenty odd years ago is clear, attitudes are slowly changing, and her concerns for budgets, staffing and prison strategy appear from time to time to remind readers of the failings of the system which make working within it difficult. It’s clear the authorities at Wakefield didn’t have any complex understanding of the psychology of the inmates. Daynes was set the task of interviewing sex offenders who committed murder to find out what motivated the killing. Putting a young female psychologist in the position of asking serious sex offenders intimate and explicit questions about violent sex crimes was open to exploitation by those offenders. The prison guards were running a book on who would pull Daynes first. One officer, John Hall, the first to ask her out, she politely rejected, later turned out to be a paedophile rapist. You never know.

The first case study is Patrick Thompson, a worrying suicide risk. Her interview with Thompson isn’t getting very far until an unfortunate incident leads to both Thompson and Daynes breaking out in a fit of laughter. After that he breaks down and opens up. His story is tragic and a real indicator that we need to see prison as a place where inmates are rehabilitated, helped, rather than just punished and abandoned. Daynes learned two things, that humour, even inappropriate humour, is a valuable tool in talking to clients and helping somebody get through just one more day is a victory.

Alison is the only person Daynes saw walk free from crown court having killed her husband. Daynes’ role in interviewing Alison and determining her mental health issues related to years of abuse played a big role in that. The case in 2003 was on the cusp of understanding that ongoing provocation could bring about an altered state, a mental incapacity, diminished responsibility, over time leading to a violent response.

Daynes lays out the norms of behaviour, the common elements and similarities in cases but these studies reveals the nuance in each specific case, the details a psychologist needs to dig into to be able to help a client. Or at least try.

Marcus rejects his diagnosis of schizophrenia but he killed his own brother in the mistaken belief that Raymond was consorting with demons. Daynes is keen to dispel the common misconception that all schizophrenics are a danger to society. Some 1% of the worlds population is believed to suffer from schizophrenia. In Britain, there are 222,000 diagnosed schizophrenics but only fifty to seventy serious violent crimes involving people with that condition every year. Each may be a tragic incident but schizophrenics are not as portrayed in the press, film and TV and fiction. Gary was already four years into a ten month sentence when Daynes got him as a client (under the now defunct indeterminate sentence rule). Poor Maya suffered at the hands of her father:

“It was a reign of pure terror; callous violence administered by a man took great pleasure in the theatre of his abuse.”

Her subsequent psychological problems led to her obsession with a local doctor, her condition is known as erotomania.

Daynes is a disciple of cognitive behavioural therapy but for this book largely avoids in-depth explanations of her methods. This is more about understanding something of the perpetrators and victims presented in these case studies. It’s nice to know that someone doing this work has the passion and energy to want to help, also the compassion to care and understanding to make a difference. Some of these case studies are unusual, thank goodness they are outside the life experience of most readers, but they are very human stories. Daynes tone and style is undramatic and all the more insightful for that. People who want to understand a little bit more The Dark Side of the Mind will appreciate this book.

Paul Burke 3.5/4

Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes
Endeavour 9781788402170 pbk Feb 2020