REVIEW: Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued (translated by Samuel Rutter)

Reviewed by Sarah Evans

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magnetized cover - oldish taxi cab blurry, as if in motionOne of our first natural reactions when we hear of a pre-meditated murder is to ask a simple, one-word question: “Why?”

We wonder why someone would want to take the life of another, and if the murder was gruesome, why the perpetrator would do their killing in such a horrific way.

“Why?” is at the heart of Carlos Busqued’s book Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer (Catapult, June 2020; translation by Samuel Rutter), about a man who murdered four taxi drivers in one week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the 1980s. Busqued never gets an answer, but he does get an unvarnished deep dive into the psyche of the killer.

Unlike many true crime stories that rely on records or accounts from witnesses or family members, Busqued pieces together the bulk of his book from interviews he conducts with the killer in prison. In fact, most of the book is verbatim conversations between Busqued and the murderer, Ricardo Melogno, bolstered by newspaper accounts and some records from the numerous mental health professionals who attempted to diagnose and treat Melogno over the years.

Melogno was only 19 when he committed the crimes. The man Busqued sits across from during his interviews is a 54-year-old inmate who has managed to survive often brutal prison conditions for more than 30 years.

And Melogno holds nothing back. He answers every question in a thorough, matter-of-fact way, yet seemingly without emotion, almost as if he, too, is trying to figure out why he would do the things he did.

Getting back to the “why” question: even Melogno can’t explain it. He had a “feeling” before each murder that it was something he should do, but that’s all the motive he’s able to give. He is quite intelligent and presents himself to others as completely sane, which led many professionals to label him a sociopath over the years. Yet sociopaths often show no empathy and manipulate others to their own benefit; neither of these traits applies to Melogno, as one of his former therapists tells Busqued.

Melogno’s continued misdiagnosis during his time in prison actually becomes a major part of the story, as he describes one failed attempt after another by doctors who attempted to “fix” him through medication, often with incredibly negative results.

It’s tough to evaluate Busqued’s writing style in this book, given that most of the text is a transcript of his interviews. That puts Busqued’s interviewing skills more in the spotlight, and he’s quite talented at it. Not only does he convince Melogno to retell what happened on the night of each killing, but he also embarks on long, philosophical discussions with Melogno about the meaning of death, what he believes is “wrong” with him, and the feelings of power behind taking someone’s life.

It helps that Melogno is not only a fascinating study, but an extremely forthcoming and thoughtful subject.  The realities he feels or follows are often skewed from the norm, but he describes them with such lucidity and self-examination that he still sounds, for lack of a better word, sane.

Even though we never get a satisfying answer to why Melogno killed the cab drivers, we do get a tantalizing look into the mind of someone who committed the unthinkable. And for many fans of true crime, that is enough.

Meet the Contributor

Sarah EvansSarah Evans is an Oregon writer who has been published in Mom Egg Review and on the Brevity Nonfiction Blog and the River Teeth Beautiful Things blog. She has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Pacific University. Read more about her at

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