A compelling and clear-eyed portrait of a recognizable American community, devastated by the secret heart of a...

UNHOLY MESSENGER

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF THE BTK SERIAL KILLER

The banality of evil, right next door.

Over the course of 30 years, Dennis Rader, a pinched, humorless Midwestern family man, terrorized the residents of Wichita, Kan., as the “BTK Killer,” a serial murderer and sexual sadist whose nom-de-crime derived from his predilection for binding, torturing and killing his victims. No criminal mastermind, Rader so embodied the archetypical Kansas man—self-effacing, pious, reliable, conservative (he served as a scout leader and was president of his Lutheran church)—that he was able, despite a sloppy m.o. and innumerable gaffes, to elude the concentrated efforts of the Wichita Police Department and the FBI to catch him. Crime journalist Singular (Presumed Guilty, 1999, etc.) limns Rader’s daily routine, stunted inner life and grisly crimes in unfussy prose that underscores the horror of the BTK slayings with brutal effectiveness; the dryly recounted quotidian details of the victims’ (and Rader’s) lives add an excruciating poignancy and immediacy to the accounts of the murders that a more lurid approach might have obscured. Singular includes many of Rader’s taunting letters to the police, full of tortured syntax, awful poetry and chilling solipsism, and they bring the killer uncomfortably close: an unimaginably lonely and emotionally stifled man whose fantasies of murder and domination coexisted with pathetic Walter Mitty–esque flights of fancy that cast the drab cipher as James Bond or John Wayne. The author wisely leavens the horror by widening the scope of the narrative to include the law enforcement personnel dedicated to the BTK case (whose eventual capture of Rader derived from an almost comically stupid blunder by the killer), and to the heroically eccentric pastor and shell-shocked congregation of Rader’s church, who had counted Rader among the most steadfast and pious of their number.

A compelling and clear-eyed portrait of a recognizable American community, devastated by the secret heart of a quintessential good neighbor—the sort of neighbor who makes one feel comfortable leaving the doors unlocked at night.

Pub Date: April 4, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-9124-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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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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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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