A fascinating study not just of a historical crime and its consequences, but also its unintended effects.

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INCENDIARY

THE PSYCHIATRIST, THE MAD BOMBER, AND THE INVENTION OF CRIMINAL PROFILING

Summer of Sam? Fuggedaboudit. If you want to scare a New Yorker of a certain age, evoke the Mad Bomber, the subject of this taut true-crime whodunit.

George Metesky, as former New York Times editor Cannell (The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit, 2011, etc.) writes, was known for a span of two decades only as the Mad Bomber. Injured in a boiler explosion at a power plant and denied workers’ compensation on tedious but technical grounds, Metesky came to harbor a maniacal grudge against Consolidated Edison. From 1940 to 1956, he planted more than 30 pipe bombs around New York, which, as Cannell shrewdly notes, “brought into being a culture of fear more than four decades before terrorism became an American fixation.” But that culture of fear was just one result. As the author documents, the NYPD’s quest to find the serial bomber introduced a couple of modernizations, supplanting at least some of the police culture of the corrupt, thuggish precinct cops of yore with a cadre of college-trained technicians, their avatar a lab scientist named Howard Finney, who had three graduate degrees and wartime service in military intelligence and who could read a crime scene from the tiniest of clues. Pair such technicians with psychiatrists, and you have the recipe for what Cannell calls a “new breed of cop” and, indeed, a new era of policing. This new culture also took pains to involve the community in looking for clues, with sometimes bizarre results. As the author writes, one informant urged that a certain kind of person be rounded up (“check brown-eyed people, they’re no good”), while psychics and psychotics alike volunteered their services. In the end, catching Metesky involved the labors of many, from beat cops to techies, and the story holds its tension from start to finish through all those twists and turns.

A fascinating study not just of a historical crime and its consequences, but also its unintended effects.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04894-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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