A true-crime page-turner about one of the more notorious bank heists of the past half century.

SIX DAYS IN AUGUST

THE STORY OF STOCKHOLM SYNDROME

A historian painstakingly reconstructs the crime that gave rise to the pop-psychological term Stockholm syndrome.

In August 1973, a furloughed Swedish convict armed with a submachine gun burst into a Stockholm bank and took four hostages, who, during their ordeal, seemed to grow attached to the gunman and a prison mate brought in at his request. The crime inspired the catchphrase Stockholm syndrome, which King defines as “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” It is often applied to high-profile kidnapping victims such as Patty Hearst and Elizabeth Smart. The “syndrome,” however, has been little studied and isn’t an officially recognized psychiatric condition; rather, it is “more a media phenomenon than a proper psychiatric diagnosis.” As such, King reconstructs the six-day standoff by drawing largely on sources other than academic studies, ranging from FBI materials to interviews with hostages and with gunman Jan-Erik “Janne” Olsson and his prison friend Clark Olofsson. In a suspenseful, chronological narrative, the author shows how missteps by the police, the media, and Prime Minister Olof Palme, combined with small acts of kindness by the hostage-takers, drew the group together. Early on, for example, the police barricaded the entrance to the bank vault in which the captors and captives hid, leaving the group with nothing to eat or drink, which made the hostage-takers look like heroes when authorities yielded to their demands for food. The most startling sign of a bond arose after the standoff ended when hostage Kristin Enmark asked captor Olofsson to father her child and was “devastated” when the resulting pregnancy was ectopic. King keeps a tight focus on ties that arise in hostage crises, but readers may suspect that some of his findings apply to the “terror bonding” that results from other crimes, such as domestic violence or child abuse.

A true-crime page-turner about one of the more notorious bank heists of the past half century. (8 page b/w photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63508-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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