Serial Killers: The World’s Most Evil

Pen & Sword. Aug. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781526781741. pap. $24.95. CRIME
Dr. Michael Stone conceptualized a “scale of evil” during his study of psychopathy, ranging from those who kill only in self-defense to sadists. Blundell (A Century of Man-Made Disasters) uses this framework to present the most heinous of serial killers: torturers, cannibals, rapists, and pedophiles. Previously published in 2010, this edition is updated with recent court decisions and significant events; however, the core text hasn’t been revised. By focusing on the worst of the worst, Blundell trots out familiar faces: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and their ilk. There are 27 candidates for “most evil” in all, with the last two entries grouping nurses and doctors who killed their patients. While Stone’s scale inspires Blundell’s picks, there’s no correlation drawn between the killers presented and Stone’s research. Blundell revisits the crimes, cataloging the gruesome events preceding each killer’s capture without offering new insight. Details are repeated within entries, and he occasionally paraphrases a primary source before directly quoting it. American readers may puzzle over the author’s description of someone’s weight being 20-stone and other Briticisms. More troubling are phrasing that blames victims for their decisions and the use of outdated terms to describe ethnicity and intelligence.
VERDICT Despite the potential for offering scientific insight, this is a numbing account of already well-documented atrocities.
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