Cover Image: Hunting the Unabomber

Hunting the Unabomber

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Member Reviews

This was a very interesting read- I was a kid when the Unabomber struck and never really knew all the details. This book was easy to read and understand and I enjoyed hearing the story unfold. Thank you for the ARC copy.
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Interesting and intriguing look at the motivations of the The Unabomber. Factual and detailed, it can be a slow read at times but it is full of detailed information that will be fascinating to those interested in the case.  I would recommend this book. Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to review this book.
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I remember the Unabomber but never knew all of the details. This book is well written with the events in chronological order and easy to follow.  It was very interesting.  
Many thanks to Nelson Books and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This was a pre release copy from NetGalley.  This was a very good book!  I immensely enjoyed this informative look at the investigation into the Unabomber.  The author has done a great job weaving all of her interviews into a book that was tough to put down.  I highly recommend this book.
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I'm not sure what made me request this ARC, as while I knew of the Unibomber & the extended search to find out his identity,  it really wasn't of great interest to me. I contemplated not reading it, but decided to give it a try and then decide whether to continue or not. I read the first couple pages, and I was hooked! The writing style is engaging and it is told in layman's terms and does not assume you know anything about what went on. 

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone. It is very informative & insiteful and can be enjoyed by people with great Unabomber knowledge and also by novices,  like myself!
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Lis Wiehl gives us all the details from the Unabomber case in her book Hunting the Unabomber.- a deep dive of the case and Kaczynski's background.

Wiehl writes of Kaczynski's childhood - mostly his adolescence when his genius intellect set him apart from other kids his age. She discusses the question about the impact of his skipping grades in school and starting at Harvard at age 16. What happens to a person that becomes isolated from normal social groups? What lasting impact did the interrogation experiment that he was a part of at Harvard have on him? Why would someone hide in a primitive cabin on the edge of survival and plot ways to kill people?

Wiehl touches on all of the bombings and talks about the lack of a focused, coordinated task force and the handful of agents from multiple agencies who were determined to find and prosecute the bomber.

Only negative is the tendency to spend too many words listing a participant's credentials.
Overall, an interesting book and good choice for true crime buffs.
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This was the best book I've ever read about the unabomber.  The detail was superb and I read it in one or two sittings.  I saw the TV movie and wondered how true it was.  The complexity of the case was beyond what the movie showed, and the book brought this out very well.  The amazing thing I found out was how many resources the various agencies put into the search.  This was elucidated well, too.  Highly recommended to all readers.
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The Unabomber’s sole intent was to cause injury and death. That was part of what made him so difficult to profile and ultimately identity.”

Third-generation federal prosecutor and daughter of an FBI agent Lis Wiehl, along with Lisa Pulitzer, dives deep into America’s longest running FBI investigation in “Hunting the Unabomber.”

Wiehl takes an extremely thorough approach to reveal the case of the Unabomber — Ted Kaczynski — and his nearly two decade reign of terror, committing 16 bomb attacks that killed three and injured 23 people. 

Relying heavily on details from FBI Agent Patrick Webb, she explains how the FBI took some seemingly random and unrelated bombings against universities, airlines and a computer store, and learned to work with other agencies — the ATF and U.S. Postal Service — to find the man who would be come known as the Unabomber.

The book discusses Kaczynski’s ability to leave no trace evidence in his bombs, severely frustrating the agents, while also revealing his past, from childhood into adulthood, attempting to humanize him a bit and delve into his psyche to learn why he committed these atrocious crimes. 

Those who enjoy true crime will love this book, seeing revelations into how law enforcement works to solve crimes using good old brain power, but also how the change in technology over time helped. It also allows the reader to think about intent behind committing crimes.

Wiehl and Pulitzer do an incredible job of creating an accurate, non-fictionalized telling of the Unabomber case. There are a lot of facts, timelines and people involved, but overall they do a good job of repeatedly reminding the reader of who people are and when and how events unraveled.

Five stars out of five. 

Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, provided this complimentary copy through NetGalley for my honest, unbiased review.
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Lis Wiehl has written a superb read with Hunting the Unabomber. Well worth the time and a true page turner!
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If you have seen the various documentaries about the Unabomber, this book adds a perspective that is worthwhile: how the men and women of the FBI organized their efforts and what they tried to do to track him down. What is interesting and not covered very well in the splashy documentaries is how many things that the team tried ended in abject failure, all because the Unabomber was able to avoid detection by using common materials and by living off the land without leaving much of a footprint. In those movies, you don't realize how much of a team effort was required and how many people contributed to his discovery. I highly recommend this book.
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I wanted to like this book. I enjoy true crime novels, and I thought it would be interesting to read this one, written by a former FBI agent. But the prose was so dry, and there were a lot of details that the author seemed to think you should already be familiar with. I knew very little about the case, and about the Unabomber. I still feel uninformed on the case because the different bombings were not presented in a linear manner. I may try another novel about the Unabomber, or I may take a break from nonfiction.
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Those of us who were adults in the late 20th century remember the Unabomber case.  For years, starting at the end of the 1970s, improvised explosive devices targeted university professors, airlines and tech shops.  Once commonalities established that these were the work of one attacker, the case became known as UNABOM, which stood for UNiversity and Airline BOMber.  Of course, the perpetrator was called the Unabomber.

The case took many years, countless agent hours and vast sums of money to crack.  Over time, the Unabomber finally gave the investigators, principally from the FBI, enough evidence to reveal his identity as Ted Kaczynski, a genius who had begun college at 16, progressed to a mathematics Ph.D., taught at Berkeley for a period, but then dropped out and lived in a 10x12 handmade cabin near Lincoln, Montana.  Kaczynski was finally arrested in 1996, pled guilty to multiple charges, including murders, received eight life sentences, and is held at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

Lis Wiehl introduces us to the people on the UNABOM task force and painstakingly details their investigation.  If you remember from the time, the big break in the case came when the Unabomber’s manifesto was published in the Washington Post.  Normally the FBI wouldn’t agree to give a terrorist’s manifesto out for publication, but in this case there were two reasons for the go-ahead: he had promised to stop killing people if it was published, and it was thought that the more people saw the content of the work the more likely it would be that someone would recognize the writing and be able to identify the writer.  And sure enough, it turned out that Ted Kaczynski’s brother recognized his older brother’s voice in the text and contacted the FBI.

Wiehl writes that she learned during her research that the recent Discovery channel series about the investigation was misleading, conflating several investigators and giving too much credit to one particular investigator.  Maybe the screenwriters thought viewers would be too confused by a lot of characters.  While there are a lot of them in the book, Wiehl’s writing is lucid and she makes it easy to follow the story.

One thing that particularly intrigued me was that quite a few members of the investigative team pooh-poohed the agents who believed that a copy of Kaczynski’s work, compared to the Unabomber manifesto, showed that the authors were one and the same.  At the time, linguistic forensics was not as widely accepted as it is today.  It was novel for the federal judge to grant a search warrant based on linguistic forensics, in the absence (at the time) of physical evidence connecting Kaczynski to the bombs.

Because Wiehl’s focus is the investigation, she doesn’t look deeply into Kaczynski’s manifesto, titled Industrial Society and Its Future, with its theme that “[t]he Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.”  He particularly damns technology for damaging the environment and the human psyche, substituting artificial life for natural life.  Many of his points particularly resonate today, and in prison he has the social life he never had before, corresponding with dozens of people regularly.  Why a brilliant man thought that terrorism would help achieve his goals is a mystery—but then that’s true of all terrorism.

This is a well-written book that is a good choice for people who enjoy reading about the true crime investigative process.

I received a free publisher’s review copy via Netgalley.
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Not many non-fiction books can hold my attention for too long. Not unless it’s Medieval or Norse history, a book on horses, a book on real detectives, or just plain weird. Or, unless it’s about crime.

I’ve only dived into a couple other books about criminals, the one about a woman who did studied on serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacey to understand just how they worked, and the other was about the two men who started the Behavioral Analysis Unit in the FBI. So naturally, I was interested when I saw Hunting the Unabomber on NetGalley. I just had to read it.

The beginning of the book starts out like a story; illustrating what life was like in December of 1992 in California. Then we ease into the life of FBI Supervisory Special Agent Patrick Webb, and we follow his thread of the story (mostly) throughout the book as he laid out details about the monstrous case involving the Unabomber to the author.

The voice of the narrative continued to be engaging, and just sucked me right in. I listened to every detail with rapt attention, even when things got messy for the people mentioned. I already knew quite a bit about the Unabomber, due to the fact that my mom took criminal psychology in college and wrote a paper on Ted Kaczynski. So it was giving me a more in-depth picture of the man who I grew up believing to be this monstrous nightmare.

I found it to be a very enlightening and somewhat puzzling story. No one knows quite what made Ted snap in the end. He just…did, making a conscious decision to start killing. Wiehl portrays all of this without any sort of bias, leaving the reader to make their own conclusions. I’d have to say that this is one that I really liked. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading true crime, criminal history, or is just curious about one of America’s most notorious domestic terrorists.

NOTE: I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own
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This is a highly engaging account of the search spanning nearly two decades, the longest manhunt in US history, to find Ted Kaczynski. I previously read the book written by Kaczynski's young brother, which I still have to review, and I found them to be necessary I realized, once I had finished this one. I recommend reading both to get a fuller picture of the man who would go on to terrorize the country, only to fade into the background while he further perfected his weapon of choice, then to launch more attacks that killed and wounded so many innocent people. While I do not want this to turn into a review of both books, as my focus here is obviously this ARC, I feel like the account written by David Kaczynski is just as important because we learn so much about their childhood and youth. Those aspects of the story matter.

I could not put this book down. I have vague memories of hearing about the Unabomber on the news, and I recall being frightened by the police sketch, I think in part because he looked so normal and could have been any average Joe walking down the street. I was 13 when he was finally apprehended and remember hearing about it, but again only vaguely. My memories are much clearer in regards to events like Waco (1993) and Oklahoma City (1995). I think part of the reason is because Kaczynski operated for so long, with sometimes a few years between bombings, that he was not always front page news. The opposite is true for Waco and OKC; I remember watching footage of the Waco siege day after day, wondering what it all meant and when it would end. And then came the Oklahoma City bombing. I will never forget watching as a twelve year old, the bodies of all those children, all those babies, carried from the wreckage, grown men and women weeping at the sight of the destruction.

Through this thoroughly-researched work then was I able to understand as a adult what I did not as a child: this guy was really fucking dangerous. And he was really, really good at what he did, hence why it took so long to capture him. Kaczynski made everything himself, and what he couldn't make (like batteries) he removed all possible traces of any information that could signal where it was purchased, what factory it was made in, etc. There were no finger prints, no identifying marks of any kind, and he was brilliant enough to be able to create a complex bomb that could handle being tossed about by US mail on its way to its destination, going off when and only when he intended it to. And when I say brilliant, I do mean brilliant. Kaczynski is a certifiable genius, having finished high school at the age of 16 and enrolling in Harvard where he earned his Bachelor's Degree. From there he went on to the University of Michigan for both a Master's and a PhD. He taught at UC-Berkeley until 1969, when he abruptly quit and went off to live in his cabin in Montana. There he would begin his journey, perfecting his bombs as they became more and more complex. Kaczynksi is a math prodigy, a true wunderkind, and there are a few theories as to how he evolved into a terrorist.

As for the writing itself, there was some repetitiveness to the author's words that was bothersome, but not enough to lose a star over. For the most part I do not like when authors insert themselves in the story and here and there this was the case as she referenced her father's work, her time as a prosecutor, etc. I understand this was probably an attempt to provide her own credentials of sorts as to why she should be writing this particular book, but I found it unnecessary. She is an excellent writer and that alone qualifies her, without all the extra. One last thing that bothered me was the sections relating to Comey and Clinton's emails in the epilogue. I understand again that this was kind of a summary of the FBI since the Unabomber's capture, but it was still not needed. While the author is correct in what she said, that it was not Comey's place as the head of the FBI to do as he did in those weeks leading up to the election, it felt very out of place in the book.

Even so, there were many things the author did right. The amount of research and locating of primary sources must have taken an extraordinary amount of work. There were also many interviews with key members of the task force who put their blood, sweat, and tears into this case. As the years went on, getting assigned to UNABOM was seen as the place where careers went to die. Thank goodness for the many men and women who worked tirelessly to track down every lead, and find any scrap of evidence they could. Their effort may not have yielded the information needed to finally identify him, but they never gave up, even when it would have been easy to do so.

Highly recommended.
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I loved this book! Found it very hard to put down. I have always been fascinated by the Unabomber, and have read a lot of information about him. But here the author has consolidated all the stories into a cohesive, chronological telling of the decades long story. And she had unique access to the men and women who conducted the hunt. Really compelling reading. She is an excellent writer!
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A well researched, interesting and engrossing book that made me discover more about Unbomber and how he was hunted.
An excellent read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Well written, chronological look at the capture of a most-wanted bomber. The details are sufficient and the narrative flows well to keep me turning the pages to find out what happens next during the investigation.  Engaging and enjoyable to read. True crime bluffs will enjoy reading this story. This copy would benefit from a final, thorough review by the editor. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book to read and review. The opinions expressed here are my own honest opinions.
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This is a great story! It was very hard to put down - and thankfully a perfect length. The story was well laid out, and the insight into some never-before-told details was great. It needed just one more sweep by the editor but no major issues.
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Full review forthcoming...................................................................,.................................
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Very excellent account of the actual members of law enforcement who worked so hard for decades to identify the person who was sending the bombs.  Many who were lauded in the press had very little to do with the outcome, the arrest of Kaszinski, but somehow received a load of press attention. And others who worked tirelessly were ignored. I guess that's politics.
The writing is very good, keeps moving the story forward and is detailed. It isn't "and then they did this and then they did that". It is a rich narrative. Even if you've read tons about this case you will be engrossed by Wiel's book.
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