A Psychiatrist Probes the Minds of Killers
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A psychiatrist who meets the criminally insane tells all. Lewis, a professor at New York University and Yale, spends a good deal of time examining the most violent among us. Her specialty is violent children, but over the years she has also met with adults. Her subjects include Arthur Shawcross, who mutilated and ate his victims, and Ted Bundy, who kissed her goodbye shortly before his execution. Lewis has clearly seen and heard a great deal, and she’s unsparing in the details of what makes a child violent. As expected, she finds that poverty and abuse are strong indicators of a tendency toward violence, and she writes movingly of one little girl who became a murderer after her family repeatedly ignored her cries for help. Not every child in those situations becomes a law-breaker, but years of abuse combined with inattentive medical care can lead to serious behavioral problems and terrible violence. Lewis early on makes the point that she has often identified more with a killer waiting to be executed than with society, which she believes makes her more sensitive to those who kill. This approach has limited appeal, however, and the book often veers between overly long sections on Lewis’s background and and relationships with colleagues and her parents, and too little real analysis. The reader is left with excellent insights into Lewis’s own modus operandi, but not much in the way of a true understanding of what makes an abused child turn into a Ted Bundy. Like Barbara Kirwin’s The Mad, The Bad, and The Innocent, this book focuses too much on the analyst. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-449-00277-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998