ONCE UPON A MURDER by

ONCE UPON A MURDER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eight grim but not-very-interesting case histories--criminal psychotics and schizophrenics whom Dr. Ruotolo, a psychoanalyst of the Karen Horney persuasion, insists on identifying with such fairy-tale characters as Peter Pan, Rumpelstiltskin, and Ferdinand the Bull. His purpose? To dramatize Horney's concept of ""self-idealization,"" a mechanism presumably at the core of each of these deluded molesters and murderers. Unfortunately, the parallels here sensationalize rather than illuminate, and (even with an appendix chapter summarizing Horney's theories) the doctor's jargon is thick and blurry: ""Psychodynamically, it would appear Juan was predominantly of the expansive type."" Moreover, Ruotolo is shockingly skimpy and superficial in his discussions of ""The Illness"" and ""Why Did It Happen?,"" devoting most of his space to recounting--often in inappropriately arch or artsy prose (""One speculated briefly that perhaps Lolitalike nymphets enticed our unsuspecting young man into repetitive contretemps with officialdom"")--the melodramatic details or his own conversations (as potential expert witness) with the defendants. When Ruotolo simply quotes or describes, the sad delusions are occasionally intriguing. Most often, however, this is the sort of psycho-interpretation that gives the whole genre a bad name, descending to ridiculous paragraph-by-paragraph footnotes from Peter Pan and such forced associations as: ""Rumpelstiltskin was enraged that his claim to immunity from discovery had been violated and blamed the devil. . . . Ned also refused to assume responsibility for his misfortunes, relying on his amulet against the devil. . .

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1978
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap