Mindhunter is based on the 1996 book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, by former special agent John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. For years, Douglas pursued some of the most notorious serial killers and rapists, developing profiling techniques to catch them. The book goes behind the scenes of some of his highest-profile cases, including the man who hunted prostitutes in Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer, and Seattle's Green River killer. To hone in his profiling methods Douglas interviewed and studied a skew of serial killers. Several book and TV characters have been based in part on him, including Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, Will Graham on Hannibal and Jason Gideon on Criminal Minds.
Two FBI agents, fighting the departmental stigma of backroom boys - those who try to complicate the status quo of simple Means, Motive, Opportunity (MMO) of crime-solving with academics - work to develop an innovative investigative field incorporating psychology, anthropology and sociology as a method to reveal the motive. They acknowledge classic crime-solving - MMO - as no longer sufficient because criminality is becoming more complicated as Motive graduates from need and greed to inexplicable and irrational reasons. They theorize applying deeper psychological evaluation will posit new questions. Simply, asking Why will lead to the Who. This series focuses on the development by two men, two agents, of a new criminal field and does so through story lines of visiting the sociopathic mind.