Rosenberg, a MacArthur ``genius''-award journalist with a strong sense of narrative, looks far beyond the usual lurid accounts of violence in Latin America to write a personalized book that digs down deeply into the continent's psyche. Rosenberg begins each of her six chapters with the story of an individual--an honest judge in Medell°n (Colombia), an ``angel of death'' in Argentina, a revolutionary in Nicaragua---but the chapters soon begin to expand exponentially as, with a novelist's skill, she weaves in history, politics, sociology, and personal observation. Issues and events that fill our daily papers in murky, often meaningless ways (the drug wars in Colombia, the Shining Path movement in Peru) are not only explained and put into context, but are also examined for their effect on Latin American life. ``The sicario [hired killer],'' she writes, ``did for murder in Medell°n what the transistor did for the radio. Killing is easy, cheap and popular....'' Rosenberg describes dozens of violent events and attempts to explain why they came about. Many of her facts are startling (one Peruvian official, for example, defended the massacre of 21 children under age five by saying that they were dangerous because guerrillas start indoctrinating children at age two), and she takes great pains to be evenhanded, interviewing both rich and poor, victors and perpetrators, revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries. A superb study that does much to bring recent Latin American history into sharp focus while at the same time illuminating just what it is that allows societies--wherever they may be--to accept, and sometimes embrace, violence.