The BAU team is called in to help Chicago detectives investigate a series of bizarre murders: a couple shot to death in a parked car; two women strangled in a public park; and a young man's decomposed body stuffed in a plastic barrel. Though equally violent and disturbing, the crimes seem unrelated—until profiler David Rossi makes the connection.
Rossi recognizes each grisly tableau, murders modeled on the crime scenes of three of the country's most notorious serial killers: the Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Someone is taking the cult of true crime to terrifying extremes...and since there are so many killers left to emulate, Rossi wonders how he can possibly profile a killer who's hiding within the killer profiles of others.
- David Berkowitz, Son of Sam
- Ted Bundy
- Jeffrey Dahmer, The Milwaukee Cannibal
- Timothy McVeigh, The Oklahoma City Bomber
- George Metesky, The Mad Bomber
- Jake Guzik, Greasy Thumb
- John Wayne Gacy, The Killer Clown
- Dennis Rader, BTK
- Andrei Chikatilo, The Rostov Ripper
- Andrew Cunanan
- Luke Helder, The Midwest Pipe Bomber
- Aileen Wuornos
- Richard Speck
- Howard Unruh
- Charles Whitman, The University of Texas Tower Sniper
- Byran Uyesugi, The Xerox Murderer
- "Imitation," Oscar Levant said, "is the sincerest form of plagiarism."
- "Take hope from the heart of man," the novelist Ouida wrote, "and you make him a beast of prey."
- The book's opening quote is extremely similar to the opening quote of the Season Eight episode "Carbon Copy", which was spoken by Charles Caleb Colton.