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Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite
Thomas Sweatt: Inside the Mind of DC's Most Notorious Arsonist by Jonathan Riffe takes you to Washington DC, which was the scene of a terrifying spate of arson attacks between 1980 and 2005, before the perpetrator was finally arrested. Confessing to more than 340 fires and the resulting death of four people, Thomas Sweatt has been called one of the most dangerous arsonists in the history of the USA. Plenty of people wanted the chance to talk to Sweatt, from authors to movie producers, but he refused them all – until Jonathan Riffe came along. A firefighter with the Annapolis Fire Department, Riffe was the only person who could get through to Sweatt and this book is the result of three years of interviews and letters exchanged between them. This is the real story behind Thomas Sweatt, an analysis that gets right inside his mind and shows us what made him tick.
Thomas Sweatt by Jonathan Riffe is a fascinating yet horrifying story of one man’s reign of terror. It isn’t a long book but it has more than enough depth and information to let you understand what drove him to embark on his 25-year year crime spree. It’s full of letters between Sweatt and Riffe and interviews that give you a rare insight into the psyche of an arsonist. It also reinforces the fact that killers and criminals often blend into society, which is why they can go undetected for so long. In many cases, especially that of Sweatt, it’s clear that the longer they get away with it, the bolder they become until they are eventually apprehended. This is a great story, well-written and chilling. It is highly recommended reading, not just for true crime fans, but for anyone who wants to understand what motivates a criminal.