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An earnest trailing of killers for hire, surveying the field from definitely amateur to efficiently professional bloodlettings, with a view to the reasons why they are for sale. The author follows in detail the case of Mother Duncan and of the two men, Luis Moya and Gus Baldonado, who were bought on her shopping spree for a killer of her thirty-year-old, pregnant daughter-in-law. Aside from her spectacular personality, Mother Duncan's story is complete with the ""gray people"" who were propositioned or knew of the plot but were afraid to come forward, with the ""indispensable cogs"" to murder at second hand -- the actual killers -- taken in by her promises to pay, and the mess of crime and consequences. Joseph Selby's plot to dispose of his wife in respectable suburbia provides another view of the previously uninitiated at work. Then we move on to semi-professional jobs, such as ""little"" Judge Peel's extinction by proxy of ""big"" Judge Chillingworth, who imperilled his career, legal and criminal. Finally there is a gangland assassination attempt on an informer who survived his brush with the boys. Mr. Wyden is intent on impressing us that murder is not so remote from us as we could wish, as witness the ""Battered Child Syndrome"" and thoughts of self-murder. His killers do appear to be ordinary folk, vulnerable (he feels) because they are the less privileged, and the book serves to make murder, if irrational in its cause and effect, a part of societal experience.

Publisher: Morrow