Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

May 02, 2004|By Michael Pakenham

The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder: A Chilling Record of the World's Worst Cases, Brian Lane and Wilfred Gregg. Carroll & Graf. 384 pages. $14.

Originally published in Britain 10 years ago, this is a compendium of multiple murderers -- the authors favor the term multicides -- through much of the world. Neither scholarly nor legalistic, it's basically a breezy gathering of cases that became notorious in their times, which stretch across much of the 20th century. For people who love this sort of thing -- and many of them whom I know appear clearly to be cheerful, healthy citizens -- this is a necessity. For those not fascinated by the subject, it would provide a couple of hours of cautionary insight. For, yes, there are patterns. The most encyclopedic of them, the authors write, is that the largest number are male, "white and approaching middle-age; he is a loner, and has been since childhood, when an unhappy or disrupted home life or sense of rejection bred a suspicion of relationships and an inability to form lasting friendships." Anyone you know?

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