As a forensic psychologist, Frank Weber’s day job has involved doing psychological assessments in homicide, sexual assault and domestic abuse cases. His work has ranged from assessing murderers and psychopaths to providing therapy for wealthy professionals who’ve engaged in multiple affairs to testifying as an expert witness.
Faced with the stresses of that work, he started writing murder mysteries as a way to vent. His wife encouraged him to send one of his manuscripts to a publisher, and his first book, “Murder Book,” was published in 2017. A second book, “The I-94 Murders,” came out in 2018 and a third, “Last Call,” will likely come out this fall.
“It’s been a fun ride,” he told an audience during a recent appearance at the Elk River Library, where he talked about his books and his work as a forensic psychologist.
“Murder Book” was nominated for Best Romance and Best Murder Mystery last year by Midwest Independent Publishers, and the reviews have been very good, he said.
The main character in his books is Jon Frederick, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator.
While the books are fictional, Weber draws on fact in weaving his tales. “Murder Book,” was inspired by a real-life homicide case. “The I-94 Murders” is loosely based on the profile of a true-life serial murderer.
Weber also uses real places in his books. One of his books starts out in the central Minnesota town of Buckman.
“I enjoy that and I think a lot of people really like that,” he said.
All the forensics in his books are also accurate. He said he likes to introduce advances in forensics that are likely new to readers.
Weber said investigators are in a better position to solve cases now than ever before, in part due to DNA, cellphones, cameras and other things.
“Cellphones are wonderful, because they’re always hitting on towers and so they put people in locations,” he said.
The prevalence of cameras — in neighborhoods, at gas stations and at many other locations — also helps solve crimes.
Advances have been made in other areas as well.
Weber, meanwhile, is a native of Pierz, Minnesota, and has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from St. Cloud State University. He said his job has taken him to every prison and almost every jail in Minnesota.
One of his strangest interviews took place at a prison where he was taken to a room in the basement that contained two plastic chairs and a metal plate in the floor. The inmate he was to assess was brought in, seated in one of the chairs and chained to the floor. The extra precautions were because the man was suspected of killing a gang member a day earlier.
In conducting an assessment, Weber said he never lets the person talk about the offense to start out with because typically they have been rehearsing a story that they want to tell him quickly, so they don’t forget it.
He said the most effective way to get information is to have a conversation about everything from relationships, work history and school history to medical history, sexual history and criminal history.
“I truly believe psychopaths are made, not born,” he said. “If you have my job, where you go through this history, you start to get an understanding of how this all played out.”
For more information about Weber and his books, go to frankweberauthor.com.