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Leyton, Elliott.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986. 318pp, paper, $16.95, ISBN 0-7710-5308-8. CIP

Reviewed by Kenneth A. Elliott

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

In composing his work, Dr. Elliott Leyton, a noted anthropologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, has researched the public and private records of six case studies of serial and mass murderers. His studies include serial murderers Edmund Emil Kemper III, Theodore Robert Bundy, Albert DeSalvo, and David Richard Berko-witz (Son of Sam), and mass murderers Mark James Robert Essex and Charles Starkweather.

In his six case studies, Leyton graphically shows that what is behind the bloody litany of rape, torture, and murder is a cool and rational killer, not an insane psychotic maniac. This is exactly what is so deeply disturbing about this work. These killers reflect many of the central themes of modern culture; wordly ambition, success and failure, but mainly avenging violence. This latter theme is pivotal to all six studies. The radical cause of this violence is society's disintegration of the murderers' self-identity. How the "self" of each of the murderers was destroyed is explored in minute detail by Leyton.

The gory details surrounding each of the murderer's rampages are described with nauseating precision. This reviewer wondered if such horrible recapitulations were essential to the author's thesis. The answer manifested itself as the evidence was laid out before the reader. Leyton shows by his explicitness that the murders were not insanely psychotic, but brutally logical and rational during the "killing times."

The author's approach to each of the case studies is to describe what actually took place in the "killing times," then to describe the reactions of the murderers themselves, the public, the professional psychiatrists and psychologists, and the police. Finally, Leyton weaves his own cogent analysis of the causal elements behind the murders from the various testimonies given. One is impressed with the manner and substance with which Leyton challenges the diagnoses of the psychiatrists.

Leyton divides the work itself into three major parts: the modern serial murderer; the modern mass murderer; and an overview. Footnotes and references are the two sections that conclude the work. More than 104 works are cited that will enable the reader to broaden his/her grasp of the subject. If the footnotes had been printed using an acceptable standard, the researcher's task would be made easier. Although the margins facilitate reading, as does the variety of type used throughout the text, the occasional unevenness of the inking is bothersome.

Those students of psychology and sociology, on both sides of the desk, will find this study invaluable. It will be a welcomed, yet profoundly disturbing, addition to any public or private library.

Kenneth A. Elliott. Laval Catholic H.S., Chomedey, Que.
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