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Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

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From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghou From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghouls and witches or, later, Hitchcockian psychos. In Sons of Cain--a book that fills the gap between dry academic studies and sensationalized true crime--investigative historian Peter Vronsky examines our understanding of serial killing from its prehistoric anthropological evolutionary dimensions in the pre-civilization era (c. 15,000 BC) to today. Delving further back into human history and deeper into the human psyche than Serial Killers--Vronsky's 2004 book, which has been called "the definitive history of the phenomenon of serial murder"--he focuses strictly on sexual serial killers: thrill killers who engage in murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and necrophilia, as opposed to for-profit serial killers, including hit men, or "political" serial killers, like terrorists or genocidal murderers. These sexual serial killers differ from all other serial killers in their motives and their foundations. They are uniquely human and--as popular culture has demonstrated--uniquely fascinating.


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From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghou From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghouls and witches or, later, Hitchcockian psychos. In Sons of Cain--a book that fills the gap between dry academic studies and sensationalized true crime--investigative historian Peter Vronsky examines our understanding of serial killing from its prehistoric anthropological evolutionary dimensions in the pre-civilization era (c. 15,000 BC) to today. Delving further back into human history and deeper into the human psyche than Serial Killers--Vronsky's 2004 book, which has been called "the definitive history of the phenomenon of serial murder"--he focuses strictly on sexual serial killers: thrill killers who engage in murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and necrophilia, as opposed to for-profit serial killers, including hit men, or "political" serial killers, like terrorists or genocidal murderers. These sexual serial killers differ from all other serial killers in their motives and their foundations. They are uniquely human and--as popular culture has demonstrated--uniquely fascinating.

30 review for Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

  1. 4 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This is a comprehensive history of serial killers by author Peter Vronsky which discusses killers going way back, and talks about the coining of the term ‘serial killer’ and its use. Lots of research went into the book and it’s very well written. Unfortunately, I had trouble with parts of it due to my sleep disorder, which caused me difficulty getting through it so I’ll likely go back and read it again at a later date when it’s not acting up as much. For those interested in the subject, you may This is a comprehensive history of serial killers by author Peter Vronsky which discusses killers going way back, and talks about the coining of the term ‘serial killer’ and its use. Lots of research went into the book and it’s very well written. Unfortunately, I had trouble with parts of it due to my sleep disorder, which caused me difficulty getting through it so I’ll likely go back and read it again at a later date when it’s not acting up as much. For those interested in the subject, you may want to give this a look if you want to check out the history of them and how they came into being. A different type of books than the ones about their crimes and the trials, but fascinating in another way, for sure, as an overview. It is impressive with all of the information that went into it. It gives a good understanding of how they likely came into being from the very earliest of times, from the days of Cain and Abel...Adam and Eve. My thanks for the advance electronic copy provided by Netgalley, author Peter Vronsky, and the publisher, for my fair review. Berkley Publishing Group Pub: Aug 14th, 2018 My Bookzone blog on Wordpress: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    it is not a book for every one. it is really for those who want to go deep into understanding serial killers. it is amazing research with a lot of information. sometime maybe a bit too detailed but on the whole fascinating. Vronsky is straight forward writer with very logical views on the subject. i was quite surprised with his conclusion that serial killers are on decline so maybe there is still hope to human kind and kindness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany PSquared

    In this statistic-heavy book, Peter Vronsky researches the presence of serial killers throughout all of human history - from the Stone Age to present day and even the possibility of their proliferation in the not-so-distant future. Sons of Cain explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. The eras of supposed werewolf/vampire slayings and witch huntings are also discussed. Occurrences of serial murder in histor In this statistic-heavy book, Peter Vronsky researches the presence of serial killers throughout all of human history - from the Stone Age to present day and even the possibility of their proliferation in the not-so-distant future. Sons of Cain explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. The eras of supposed werewolf/vampire slayings and witch huntings are also discussed. Occurrences of serial murder in historic times is perhaps the most interesting and gruesome part of this book. Well-researched and meticulously footnoted and annotated, the book still seems to neglect female offenders in this category, although it is very inclusive of little-known male offenders that aren't often included in serial killer discussions. Sons of Cain was at times captivating (especially Vronsky's personal encounter with a noted serial killer) and at times gruesome and disheartening. There are graphic descriptions of individual crimes and discouraging statistics about the vast numbers of killers and the infinitely varied reasons that they become what they are. Recommended for readers who, like me, are obsessed with learning about why these psychopathic killers commit their horrific crimes, but don't expect any easy answers. ***Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing Group, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a free ARC of this book. See my full review of this book and others at That New Book Smell

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elise

    I hardly even know how to fully express my frustrations with this book. One problem with it structurally was that it couldn't decide if it was a sort of "unified theory of serial killers" or a catalog of them through history, which meant it veered back and forth between a broad scope look at serial killing as a phenomenon and accounts of specific singular serial killers. Perhaps a better writer could have tied those two things together, but Vronsky didn't manage it. Secondly, there was a lot of I hardly even know how to fully express my frustrations with this book. One problem with it structurally was that it couldn't decide if it was a sort of "unified theory of serial killers" or a catalog of them through history, which meant it veered back and forth between a broad scope look at serial killing as a phenomenon and accounts of specific singular serial killers. Perhaps a better writer could have tied those two things together, but Vronsky didn't manage it. Secondly, there was a lot of weird misogyny in here. For someone who managed to express the concept of the "less-dead" (not Vronsky's innovation) and the ways in which marginalized populations are particularly vulnerable because of the legal system, the fact that he couldn't use the word "sex worker" instead of "prostitute" - and particularly his lurid description of Jack the Ripper's victims as, essentially, grotesque - didn't feel particularly compassionate or conscientious. There was also some whiffs of evolutionary psychology in his explanation of "where serial killers come from" - a school of thought I find profoundly dubious, particularly because of its deep seated connections to misogynist conceptions of gender roles and "men are just like that" apologia for rape. The idea that "serial killer" is the "natural" state of people (and usually men in particular, which is something Vronsky very much seems to buy into) fits very much into a highly suspect and in large part scientifically questionable narrative of evo psych, and one that tends to reinforce conceptions of men as "naturally" violent and women as "naturally" nurturing. There were also his characterizations of serial killers' mothers as essentially "at fault", and some distasteful at best mutterings about the perils of "feminizing" young boys that had more than a whiff of transphobia. There are ways to talk about how perhaps "forced feminization" impacts boys that involve more discussion of the insecurity of masculinity in Western culture and less blaming mothers. That latter isn't an unfamiliar trope in true crime literature, but it's one that always makes me skeptical - we tend to blame mothers for how children turn out to a possibly disproportionate degree. Also, his inclusion of the witch hunts in his category of serial killers was highly suspect to me and seemed to belong in a different book, and almost bizarrely aggressive descriptions of the evils of our opponents, for some reason contrasted with ISIS? seemed like digressions into another book entirely. There were also some strange things in the general format, like the three page long spread of serial killers and their birth dates/times of activity (something that might have been in an appendix) and a full page of lurid headlines from men's magazines (didn't need all those examples at all) that I am frankly astonished weren't cut in the editing process. I'm almost certainly forgetting other things that bothered me, considering that scarcely a page passed by in reading this where I wasn't finding myself wrinkling my nose at something. It seems to me like Vronsky couldn't decide which book to write, and tried to write all of them. And along the way, he fell into a number of unfortunate traps that meant I found myself not just annoyed by this book but actively repulsed. Unfortunate. edit: Oh yes! And at least one glaring factual inaccuracy: the idea of the "bullied [loser] 1999 Columbine massacre perpetrators" has been thoroughly discredited, multiple times.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Years ago, I was a fan of "true crime" books, especially John E. Douglas's MINDHUNTER, so when I came across this book, I was intrigued. As the title suggests, author Peter Vronsky, an investigative historian, has written a history, specifically of sexual serial killers in Western society, from the Stone Age to the present. He starts off with a "grabber" - his unknowing face-to-face encounter with serial killer, Richard Cottingham. Then, using copious amounts of research (18 pages of Endnotes an Years ago, I was a fan of "true crime" books, especially John E. Douglas's MINDHUNTER, so when I came across this book, I was intrigued. As the title suggests, author Peter Vronsky, an investigative historian, has written a history, specifically of sexual serial killers in Western society, from the Stone Age to the present. He starts off with a "grabber" - his unknowing face-to-face encounter with serial killer, Richard Cottingham. Then, using copious amounts of research (18 pages of Endnotes and Bibliography!), Vronsky chronicles the evolution of serial killers, from their origins to present day. It's not an anthology of serial killers, but he does include several examples to coincide with each chapter's information. Some points he makes which I found interesting include: *what drives serial killers; *the prehistoric background of Homo sapiens and our "brain evolution"; *how serial killers were explained away in the Middle Ages as being werewolves or vampires (as well as the meaning of "porphyria"); *why women were accused of being witches and how they were "questioned"; *although female serial killers exist, why female sexual serial killers are rare; *why marginalized victims were referred to as "less-dead"; *how innocent fairy tales, like "Sleeping Beauty" and "Little Red Riding Hood" were originally dark, vile horror stories about human predators and their female victims; *a chapter that sets the record straight about Jack the Ripper; *the sickening emergence of serial killer "groupies" and "murderabilia"; and *hypotheses as to why there was such a prolific number of serial killers from the 1970s to the 1990s. This book is definitely not for the squeamish. I found the story about America's youngest serial killer, 12-year old Jesse Pomeroy, to be extremely disturbing. Overall, this is a well-researched comprehensive book, not only about sexual serial killers, but how females were, and continue to be, viewed in society throughout history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    Story - 4 Stars Narration - 4 Stars Reread There's a lot that's good about this book but it gets repetitive. Also, the author gets into a few long lists, I mean REALLY long lists, of things to illustrate his point. (The list of serial killers generated during the 30 years bracketing WW2, is astounding! ) Story - 4 Stars Narration - 4 Stars Reread There's a lot that's good about this book but it gets repetitive. Also, the author gets into a few long lists, I mean REALLY long lists, of things to illustrate his point. (The list of serial killers generated during the 30 years bracketing WW2, is astounding! )

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Daviau

    I’m kind of right in the middle with this book, I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. Some parts were incredibly interesting and completely held my attention while others had me just not caring and wanting to skim over them. Some parts were also quite repetitive, I only need to hear so many times what the definition of a serial killer is before it starts to get annoying. And the constant mentions of Jack the Ripper were aggravating as well, the author kept coming back around to it and at I’m kind of right in the middle with this book, I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. Some parts were incredibly interesting and completely held my attention while others had me just not caring and wanting to skim over them. Some parts were also quite repetitive, I only need to hear so many times what the definition of a serial killer is before it starts to get annoying. And the constant mentions of Jack the Ripper were aggravating as well, the author kept coming back around to it and at one point I just wanted to scream “THAT’S ENOUGH”. The parts about really early serial killers were SO fascinating though, those bits are really what kept me reading despite my frustrations with the book. It was just so interesting to see how far back you can actually trace serial killers, they definitely aren’t a product of modern times as I previously thought and I enjoyed learning more about that. So while some things about this book really frustrated me I do still think it’s worth a read if you’re morbidly obsessed with serial killers as I am!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is an interesting book, albeit a book that has some issues. The title indicates that we have a history of serial killers, which we do, sort of, if one doesn't mind forays into fields that seem hardly to be related. Mr Vronsky suggests that serial killers are not so much made as born; that we are all born with the instinct to kill people and screw their corpses but that most of us are essentially deprogrammed through "healthy familial upbringing and positive societal norms". He gives some in This is an interesting book, albeit a book that has some issues. The title indicates that we have a history of serial killers, which we do, sort of, if one doesn't mind forays into fields that seem hardly to be related. Mr Vronsky suggests that serial killers are not so much made as born; that we are all born with the instinct to kill people and screw their corpses but that most of us are essentially deprogrammed through "healthy familial upbringing and positive societal norms". He gives some interesting case studies of some of the more notorious killers, and includes lots of stats. I started to be skeptical of the stats when I read these words on page 281: "In September 1911, using an ax, Moore killed 6 victims in Colorado Springs - a man, two women, and four children." Anyone else see the problem there? There were other issues. He makes comments that border on the inflammatory, like this on page 310: The Nazi German and Imperial Japanese enemies that American G.I.s - our fathers and grandfathers - were dispatched to fight were without exaggeration far more savage, sadistic and murderous than anything we see today in the form of the Taliban, Al-Qaida or ISIS." I had issues with that. He seems not only to forget that French and Commonwealth troops had been battling these foes for a good two years before the USA entered the fray, but, more importantly, how do you figure? Can he be ignorant of the extent of Taliban and ISIS savagery, or is it because the Nazis are all dead now and easier to pick on? How much more savage can you be than burning captured enemy fighters alive? If he had wanted to make a case on sheer numbers, I might have agreed with him but it's pretty hard to out-savage some jerk who is throwing a guy off the top of a building or stoning a woman to death because she was raped. Sheesh! While we're on the topic of savagery, here's something to ponder from page 312: "our enemy in World War II was so evil and powerful that we were called upon not just to utterly annihilate its armies but to bomb and burn its cities along with its people, including the women and children, until their governments collapsed or surrendered." I'll just leave that there. All considered, not a bad book. A few inconsistencies but I think he tries to be fair throughout. The writing is decent and he seems to have done a lot of research and written several books, which he references...a lot. I keep a pad of paper handy to write down interesting quotes, and when I was finished the book noticed that I had quite a few written down...and then realized that they were all quotes Vronsky had credited to other writers. I'll finish this with a word of warning. Mr Vronsky observes that many serial killers were made to dress as girls when young. He names, among others, Henry Lee Lucas, Otis Toole, Eddie Cole and Charles Manson. It's probably best to keep your sons out of your daughter's closets, just to be on the safe side.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    In Sons of Cain, author Vronsky (a historian who has authored other true crime books) presents a well-researched and very detailed if occasionally dry exploration of the serial killer phenomenon. Split into three sections, the early chapters outline the psychology and the science aspect. In the second part Vronsky dives deeply into history, with a fair amount of page dedicated to the lesser-known European murderers in the 15th through 19th centuries who pre-date the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' ca In Sons of Cain, author Vronsky (a historian who has authored other true crime books) presents a well-researched and very detailed if occasionally dry exploration of the serial killer phenomenon. Split into three sections, the early chapters outline the psychology and the science aspect. In the second part Vronsky dives deeply into history, with a fair amount of page dedicated to the lesser-known European murderers in the 15th through 19th centuries who pre-date the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' case. 'Jack' is used as the launch into the conclusion which leads to the so-called 'golden age' - the author's words, not mine - in the U.S. from the late 60's to the start of the 21st century. In a good way (as to not glamorize them any further, at least) many of the notable 'monsters' of the latter part of the 20th century - Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. - get only token mentions and their cases are not actually discussed in depth. That's fine, really, as their horrible and disgusting actions have been already written about in numerous other books over the years. Vronsky presents some intriguing theories as to why America experienced such an increase in serial killer activity in the 70's, 80's and 90's, as well as why said activity appeared to decrease after 2000. There are some terrifying and tasteless parts of Sons of Cain, but the book is meant more for educational purposes than entertainment. (The reader is not yukking it up following the adventures of Hannibal Lecter.) It demonstrates that evil walks this earth, and could be as close as next door. 4.5 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Disturbing and very descriptive, but in a super clinical way. This terrific reference manual shows that Hannibal Lecter's most worrisome predilection isn't all that unusual. (See, told you it was disturbing.) Disturbing and very descriptive, but in a super clinical way. This terrific reference manual shows that Hannibal Lecter's most worrisome predilection isn't all that unusual. (See, told you it was disturbing.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    K.

    Trigger warnings: pretty much anything you can think of. Especially rape and murder, obviously. This book was...not quite what I expected it to be. For starters, in my head it was a huge tome of a thing, but in reality it's just over 300 pages. I also didn't expect it to assume as much prior knowledge of serial killers during the 1960s and 1970s as it did. But I digress. The chapters on serial killers between 1400 and 1800 were fascinating - there was a whole chapter talking about how witch hunt Trigger warnings: pretty much anything you can think of. Especially rape and murder, obviously. This book was...not quite what I expected it to be. For starters, in my head it was a huge tome of a thing, but in reality it's just over 300 pages. I also didn't expect it to assume as much prior knowledge of serial killers during the 1960s and 1970s as it did. But I digress. The chapters on serial killers between 1400 and 1800 were fascinating - there was a whole chapter talking about how witch hunts were basically one giant church-sanctioned serial murder spree, and another that discussed instances in which serial killers were reported at the time as being werewolves. So all of that was REALLY interesting. There were numerous statistics during the 19th and 20th century sections that I was shocked by - for example, the US has 9 times Canada's population, but 23 times its murder count. But there was something about the way that Vronsky talked about the victims of these crimes that made me...unsettled. I'm thinking most specifically of Jack the Ripper's victims in which he basically dehumanises them altogether in an effort to point out that they weren't the pretty young things that Hollywood makes them out to be. Which, like, I get it. But also, they were still human beings, dude. Maaaaybe slow your roll. I was also slightly sceptical of his hypothesis that there was an explosion in the number of serial killers during the second half of the 20th century because their fathers came back from war psychologically traumatised by the rapes and deaths they'd witnessed or perpetrated and did a shit job of raising their sons as a result. Mostly my issue with this has to do with the fact that he literally only looks at America in making this statement, and surely there would have been a global explosion of serial killers if the cause was men damaged by war being shitty fathers?? All of that being said, this was still an incredibly interesting read and I'll certainly keep an eye out for Vronksy's other works.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

    In Sons of Cain, Peter Vronsky has a serial killer hammer and everything looks like a nail. Indeed, pretty much every example of human violence throughout history is revealed in this book to actually be... serial killing! Gladiators? All serial killers! Combatants in warfare? Serial killers, all of them! Witch trials? Serial killing by the Catholic Church! (If you think it's implausible that a religious institution could qualify as a serial killer - congratulations, you are a better historian th In Sons of Cain, Peter Vronsky has a serial killer hammer and everything looks like a nail. Indeed, pretty much every example of human violence throughout history is revealed in this book to actually be... serial killing! Gladiators? All serial killers! Combatants in warfare? Serial killers, all of them! Witch trials? Serial killing by the Catholic Church! (If you think it's implausible that a religious institution could qualify as a serial killer - congratulations, you are a better historian than the author). Vronsky even makes the bonkers claim that serial killing is innate to human nature, a claim that he does not back up by any plausible evidence (possibly because there is no plausible evidence for such a claim). So yes, he is very credulous when it comes to his favorite topic, but he's also oddly closed-minded about others: in one pointless aside he dismisses the idea that gender is a social construct even though this is a widely accepted fact. It's nice, I guess, that a big publishing house gave a book deal to an obsessed crank, but I wish they'd have let someone with actual critical thinking and scientific skills write on the topic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This book contained so much information! I was not expecting it to be so complex. The book is broken into 3 different sections; On the Origin of Species: The Evolution of Serial Killers, Serial Killer Chronicles: The Early Forensic History of Monsters and The New Age of Monsters: The Rise of the Modern Serial Killer. This book included information about serial killers that I have never even heard of and went back hundreds and hundreds of years. It is very well researched and the author talked ab This book contained so much information! I was not expecting it to be so complex. The book is broken into 3 different sections; On the Origin of Species: The Evolution of Serial Killers, Serial Killer Chronicles: The Early Forensic History of Monsters and The New Age of Monsters: The Rise of the Modern Serial Killer. This book included information about serial killers that I have never even heard of and went back hundreds and hundreds of years. It is very well researched and the author talked about things I was even familiar with. I was more familiar with infamous serial killers such as Jack the Ripper and individuals in the United States from 1950-2000. This was a really interesting book and I think that anyone who enjoys reading about serial killers and true crime will really enjoy this book. It is fairly dense and contains a great deal of information. Thank you to the publisher, Berkley, for sending me an ARC of this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Alright, so you're talking to someone that loves history (the more facts, the better!) and it's a bonus that this is about serial killers. I loved that it also included serial killers that I hadn't heard of before and that we went so far back into history to study them. I'll warn you now, this one is a lot more technical than you would expect (which could translate into a more dry read for some). The amount of research that went into this book is amazing. SONS OF CAIN focuses more on the serial k Alright, so you're talking to someone that loves history (the more facts, the better!) and it's a bonus that this is about serial killers. I loved that it also included serial killers that I hadn't heard of before and that we went so far back into history to study them. I'll warn you now, this one is a lot more technical than you would expect (which could translate into a more dry read for some). The amount of research that went into this book is amazing. SONS OF CAIN focuses more on the serial killers that commit sexual crimes and killings. What makes them different than other killers? As a warning, these killers engage in rape, torture, cannibalism, and even necrophilia, so if those topics are ones you wish to avoid, then this won't be the book for you. This dives deep into the minds of these killers and also examines why the public seems to be so fascinated and mesmerized by their horrific crimes. I think the most captivating and creepy part of this book was hearing about the author's personal brushes with some of these killers. Makes you wonder if you've ever interacted with or encountered someone like this. This is why I will always love to read true crime novels and why they will scare me the most. These people exist(ed) and these crimes actually happened, if that's not chilling and terrifying, then I don't know what is. If you're a fan of true crime and are curious about a more in-depth history of these kinds of killers, then this will be a truly fascinating read. Again, this book is very technical and heavily researched, so it may read like a textbook or encyclopedia for some readers. I will be going back to find his other books about the more modern serial killers!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie-lee Northey

    TLDR - author uses veeerrrrry long sentences and a poorly supported theory as premise for book. My first DNF of 2019, at 76 pages. I had real trouble with this book. It was difficult to read because the author writes in really long sentences that run to 6-7 or more lines. Even relatively simple sentences made my brain feel like it was suffocating while I read. Eg: "In those days few imagined a world where the dad in Leave It to Beaver might be burying bodies in the basement or sodomizing the Bea TLDR - author uses veeerrrrry long sentences and a poorly supported theory as premise for book. My first DNF of 2019, at 76 pages. I had real trouble with this book. It was difficult to read because the author writes in really long sentences that run to 6-7 or more lines. Even relatively simple sentences made my brain feel like it was suffocating while I read. Eg: "In those days few imagined a world where the dad in Leave It to Beaver might be burying bodies in the basement or sodomizing the Beaver while Mom might be posing in explicit classified ads to lure victims to their home, or that big brother Wally might be torturing the family cat while masturbating to men's adventure magazines or peeping through the neighbour's window with a knife in hand." These sentences are so convoluted that I kept losing track of what he was talking about and the whole point. Now, I like long sentences as much as the next word nerd but when they are occurring multiple times on a page it's too much. Plus, sentences of 3-4 lines are also very common. It's not hard to break them up mate and convey your ideas in a way that doesn't seem like it's a train of manic consciousness. In addition to the writing, the premise gave me pause. I had some issues with the 'facts' (i use quotations as quite a few of them are in dispute) that he used to support his theory about serial killers. His idea is that serial killer is the default state or humans: "In conclusion, we might all be born as serial killers, but most of us are raised and socialized out of it. Serial killers are not made; they are unmade." (p.49) This to me seemed like an over specialised 'nature vs nurture debate', but stating that rather than humans having a 'pure' natural state, it is in fact a violent one. Okay, so I was willing to at least entertain this premise for the sake of the book. However, Vronsky draws on evidence from across many different disciplines to support this theory and herein lies my biggest issue. If you're using facts to support your theory, but the facts are proven to be incorrect, is your theory then disproven? I think so. As I had an issue with this I began sticking post-its in the book to jot down my thoughts, something I often do with non-fiction books. When I got to my 19th post-it in 30 pages, and put 7 on pages 74-75 alone I decided this was ridiculous. I would really like to discuss this book with a psychologist, psychiatrist and/or a profiler and see what they have to say to Vronsky's 'theory', especially as one of the end notes in the chapter where he explains it states: "In the name of full disclosure, I acknowledge that not all scientists agree that Homo sapiens deliberately raped and killed off the Neanderthals. nobody in the sciences agrees or disagrees unanimously on anything I cite in this chapter. . . ." The quote goes on, but he does this a lot - he presents a theory that supports his idea then says, actually this fact is disputed, or psychologists no longer follow this theory. He gives time to Krafft-Ebing, Lombroso, Money and Freud, then says they are discredited. SO WHY USE THEM???!!!!! (Though in fairness he doesn't actually state that most of Freud's theories are no longer used by modern psychologists). I was frustrated in this section, and had my doubts, but i had little expertise in this area. I was tipped off because in spite of the copious end notes and reference section (nearly 50 pages of small print!!) Vronsky doesn't actually explain WHY his theory is correct. I sort of gave him a pass on this, this is not a monograph meant for experts in the field, but for lay readers. It didn't inspire my confidence in his veracity though. Then the history section started, an area I do have quite a bit of knowledge and a university degree in. Firstly, it is very bad history to assume the motives of historical figures without direct "I did this because . . ." evidence. You can but forward your theory and state what it is about the primary sources that leads you to believe this, but you can't claim someone was a serial killer based on fragmentary and several hundreds of years old documents written even by a contemporary observer. This is basic historical practise. Vronsky isn't an historian, but if he's going to use History, he has to play by History's rules. What eventually led to my DNF moment was the naming of six historical figures as serial killers: Caligula, Nero, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad Dracul 'The Impaler', Gilles de Rais, and Elizabeth Bathory. Okay, knocking off the emperors first. Vronsky names these two as serial killers due to the outrageous crimes the sources ascribe to them. However, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Roman sources, the factual nature of many have been questions for many, many years. These are polemics, propaganda, not histories as we know them. For more details, Mary Beard's SPQR is an excellently well-researched, but still highly readable account of the Romans, FROM AN ACTUAL HISTORIAN! Now, Vlad and Ivan. He claims they 'were reported to revel in "hands-on" killings', for no political motives. Much of his argument seems to rely on the public knowledge of these two men - someone called 'the Terrible' and the inspiration for the vampire Dracula, they gotta be evil dudes. Right? Well, Ivan's epithet 'Grozny' is better translated into English as 'the Formiddable'. Many of the worst stories about him are apocryphal and his history is of a man forging a new nation. Killing your enemies, even in a gruesome way IS political, if you're trying to calm dissent and hold a country together. same goes for Vlad. The middle ages were violent, and though Vlad stood out, syaing there was no political motive for his actions shows a misunderstanding of his context. Vlad was ruler of Wallachia, a border state between the Ottomans and the rest of Europe. He was constantly under attack. Infamously he had 20,000 of his own people impaled to create a forest of the dead to deter the Sultan. Any man who can do this to his own people, imagine what he will do to his enemies being the message. And it worked. To say there is no political purpose behind violence like this is to not understand the political purpose. Finally the last two - Bathory and de Rais. Recent scholarship has placed forward quite convincing evidence that, especially in Bathory's case, the charges were political propaganda put forward by theIr enemies. Something that Vronsky admits (AGAIN!!!!!!!!). This continued to baffle and irritate me. Why use evidence that even you admit may be wrong? It's one thing to say, this is what scientists/historians/researchers believe at the current time, but theories change. It's another to say "Hey, all that stuff I just said, yeah, the specialists don't think that anymore, but it sure supports what I'm saying so I'm gonna leave it in".

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    Sons of Cain is the story of real serial killers from the stone age to now. The book is divided into three parts. Part I contains definitions, Earth’s history and man’s place in it, and psychological diseases that may be causing serial killers to be more frequent now. Part II and III are the meat of the book focusing on pre-Industrial society and from Jack the Ripper forward, respectively. You can skip Part I and just look up anything for which you need additional information later. It’s written l Sons of Cain is the story of real serial killers from the stone age to now. The book is divided into three parts. Part I contains definitions, Earth’s history and man’s place in it, and psychological diseases that may be causing serial killers to be more frequent now. Part II and III are the meat of the book focusing on pre-Industrial society and from Jack the Ripper forward, respectively. You can skip Part I and just look up anything for which you need additional information later. It’s written like a textbook—informative but bone dry. In addition, if you are not a fan of Darwin’s evolution, it goes down that rabbit hole for a bit too. The remaining parts are a mixed bag of pedantic, interesting and fascinating. My favorites were the 1874 Bostonian 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy, Jack the Ripper and the extensive analysis of why serial killers began to be more prevalent in 1960s to peaking in the 1990s. Sons of Cain is an interesting true tale of serial killers. It is recommended for readers or viewers of thrillers containing serial killers like Silence of the Lambs and Dexter. It is highly recommended to writers of stories involving serial killers. And, of course, current, past or future serial killers (you know who you are) should pick up this book to avoid making the same mistakes as their predecessors (just kidding). 4 stars! Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Like most people who would find themselves interested in this book, I have an odd obsession with serial killers. I'm still upset over the closing of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment where their serial killer exhibit had some very fascinating artifacts like Bundy's car and Gacy's paintbox and some paintings, etc. So to satisfy my morbid curiosity, I turn to books. I was lucky enough to win this one. The book is divided in three parts. The first section gets into the definition of a serial Like most people who would find themselves interested in this book, I have an odd obsession with serial killers. I'm still upset over the closing of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment where their serial killer exhibit had some very fascinating artifacts like Bundy's car and Gacy's paintbox and some paintings, etc. So to satisfy my morbid curiosity, I turn to books. I was lucky enough to win this one. The book is divided in three parts. The first section gets into the definition of a serial killer, what psychological characteristics are present, and evolution. The second and third section explore serial killers through history and the events in history that are often overlooked in regard to serial killers being involved. The first part reads pretty dry and like a textbook. The second and third parts are much more entertaining. I appreciate the theories Vronsky came up with and how much research clearly went into putting this book together. Recommended to readers who enjoy books about serial killers. I won this through goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I couldn’t finish this one. The author’s unified theory for what makes a serial killer struck me as, to put it mildly, highly dubious. He claims that the thing that separates all the rest of us from serial killers is good parenting. That’s right folks, we’re all born serial killers because our primeval ancestors couldn’t have survived unless they were a bunch of genocidal murderers. Then civilization came along and changed us while the occasional bad parents caused a few serial killers to pop up I couldn’t finish this one. The author’s unified theory for what makes a serial killer struck me as, to put it mildly, highly dubious. He claims that the thing that separates all the rest of us from serial killers is good parenting. That’s right folks, we’re all born serial killers because our primeval ancestors couldn’t have survived unless they were a bunch of genocidal murderers. Then civilization came along and changed us while the occasional bad parents caused a few serial killers to pop up now and then. Considering what average parenting looked like a few hundred years ago, it’s amazing humanity survived to the present day. That’s it. No long review for this one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neelam Babul

    I first read about serial killers in an article I came across and later on studied them in depth as part of my studies for my bachelor's degree in law. This book is a comprehensive guide on the origin of serial killers, their history from the stone age to the current times as well as their evolution and transformation. The writer also presents brief biographies of various serial killers throughout the ages. A conclusive guide on understanding and widening your awareness on the subject. I first read about serial killers in an article I came across and later on studied them in depth as part of my studies for my bachelor's degree in law. This book is a comprehensive guide on the origin of serial killers, their history from the stone age to the current times as well as their evolution and transformation. The writer also presents brief biographies of various serial killers throughout the ages. A conclusive guide on understanding and widening your awareness on the subject.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paloma

    Review in English | Reseña en Español A book definitely worth checking for those fans of true crime. While at some point I questioned if there was actually going to be some discussion of serial killers since the Stone Age, as the first few chapters contain a lot of personal background from the author, patience did pay off. To be fair, this is the first time I heard other serial killers before Jack the Ripper and wow –those stories are chilling and sick as one could expect. I believe the author do Review in English | Reseña en Español A book definitely worth checking for those fans of true crime. While at some point I questioned if there was actually going to be some discussion of serial killers since the Stone Age, as the first few chapters contain a lot of personal background from the author, patience did pay off. To be fair, this is the first time I heard other serial killers before Jack the Ripper and wow –those stories are chilling and sick as one could expect. I believe the author does a good job in balancing historical, scientific and sociological data to try to explain the existence of serial killers through history and how there might be more than those that have been officially identified. Why? Because usually it is difficult to believe some very basic impulses might still exist in the human mind and soul and therefore, there might be not enough research about certain conducts. For example, the author argues that while Europe and the U.S. have reported a long list of serial killers, the numbers are relatively low in other places from Africa, Latin America and Asia. But the question is: is this because there are no killers there or because in those places authorities have failed to trace certain patterns and behaviors that might point out to those killers? The question is very valid and remains to be answered. Another aspect I liked beside the new information I got from “older” cases, was that this is the first time I’ve read of some actual hypothesis as to why there seem to be more serial killers in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world. We so often hear that the U.S. is the land of serial killers but little explanation is given as to why. Vronsky presents a theory which is very plausible and could explain a lot but sadly, it was overlooked for decades. (view spoiler)[Vronsky claims that many serial killers from the 70s and 80s were children of soldiers fighting at WWII who in turn were witness to atrocities of war and were never able to speak about it to anyone. The pain and fear these men felt was taken out on their kids thus scarring them for life and making them monsters. (hide spoiler)] ___ Una lectura que vale la pena para todos aquellos que les gustan los crímenes reales –como es mi caso. Si bien hubo un momento en que me desesperé un poco porque pensé que nunca iban a hablar sobre el contexto histórico de los asesinos en serie, ser paciente tuvo sus recompensas. Los primeros capítulos me parecieron un poco largos, sobre todo porque el autor da mucho contexto de su historia personal (lo que lo llevó a interesarse en el tema) así como social de Estados Unidos, pero al final vale la pena. Siendo justos, esta es la primera vez que leo sobre asesinos seriales pre Jack el Destripador y, vaya que estas historias son escalofriantes. Creo también que el autor hace un buen trabajo en equilibrar la información histórica, científica y sociológica para la analizar el surgimiento y existencia de asesinos seriales a través de las épocas y cómo es que quizá puedan existir más de ellos de los que se han identificado. ¿Por qué? En primer lugar porque es quizá difícil creer que impulsos muy primarios, muy instintitvos continúen presentes en la mente y el alma humana y por ello, no se le preste la atención suficiente a ciertas conductas en cuanto a crímen se refiere. Por ejemplo, Vronsky sostiene que mietras Europa y Estados Unidos son las regiones con el mayor número de asesinos seriales identificados, las cifras son menores para Africa, América Latina y Asia. Pero la pregunta es, ¿esto se debe porque no hay asesinos de este tipo o porque las autoridades en esos lugares no han identificado patrones y comportamientos que pudiera apuntar a estos asesinos? La pregunta me pareció sumamente válida y queda pendiente por responder. Finalmente, otro aspecto que me gustó del libro además de lo novedoso fue que es la primera vez que leo sobre una hipótesis del por qué pareciera haber más asesinos en serie en Estados Unidos que en el resto del mundo. Con frecuencia escuchamos que este país es la tierra de criminales en serie pero en lo personal nunca había escuchado una teoría convincente del por qué. Y lo que el autor plantea es coherente y posible y que fue obviado por décadas. (view spoiler)[El autor plantea que muchos asesinos en serie de la década de 1970 y1980 fueron hijos de ex soldados combatientes en la Segunda Guerra Mundial, y quienes fueron testigos de muchísimas atrocidades. Ellos, por desgracia no pudieron hablar del tema con nadie y quizá se desquitaron con sus hijos, traumatizándolos y convirtiéndolos en hombres sin conciencia (hide spoiler)] .

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This book was very interesting. I liked that it examined the mind of a serial killer by examining the patterns of many and not just focusing on one. The author did get a bit long winded at times and bogged down in statistics but overall it was remarkably interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Book Club of One

    I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky, continues his studies in serial killers, marking his third work on this subject. This particularly book focuses on "sexual serial killers from the stone age to the present." Vronky does this by dividing the book into three sections. The first, details the evolution of the serial killer from the early days of humanity. Section II explores I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky, continues his studies in serial killers, marking his third work on this subject. This particularly book focuses on "sexual serial killers from the stone age to the present." Vronky does this by dividing the book into three sections. The first, details the evolution of the serial killer from the early days of humanity. Section II explores them from modernity through to right before Jack the Ripper. The final section explores serial killers from Jack the Ripper to the present day. Highly detailed in both examples and statistics, this book is very informative and would appeal to any true crime reader. However, the title as a whole should have an asterisks after it as this study is based primarily on Western Europe and the United States. It begs the question, are serial killers primarily a Western phenomenon? Or just a lack of readily, or easily accessible records? Only for a few pages do I recall mention of nations outside of the US or Europe (Page 279-280). Vronsky used the Radford University Serial Killer Database numeric extensively, but as he acknowledges, their numbers outside of the US for the 1900-1950 range are "likely very low" due in part to the inaccessibility of un-digitzed newspapers. While so much of this work is reliant on newspapers and the surviving public records it seems a less vague title would better reflect the content. Having little background in anthropology or psychology I found the first 70 pages very difficult to read through as they were focused on early man and the reptilian brain, definitions of serial killers and psychologically classifications. Once one gets past this section the reading is much easier as it has a somewhat better focus. Vronsky unfortunately constantly jumps back and forth in time showing his extensive knowledge of serial killers by stating a historic case and then naming or alluding to a modern killer with similar practices. These types of comments seem more appropriate for footnotes, which hopefully the published edition will have.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I received an ARC of this book thru the Goodreads Giveaway - it wasn't my usual genre of reading material, but, sounded intriguing from the description. While there were a few shudder inducing details, for the most part, it was a very well researched and written analysis of serial killings throughout history. I had never looked at the medieval witch-hunts or the atrocities of World War II as examples of serial killers gone amok, but, reading this book, that assessment isn't far off the mark. Mr. I received an ARC of this book thru the Goodreads Giveaway - it wasn't my usual genre of reading material, but, sounded intriguing from the description. While there were a few shudder inducing details, for the most part, it was a very well researched and written analysis of serial killings throughout history. I had never looked at the medieval witch-hunts or the atrocities of World War II as examples of serial killers gone amok, but, reading this book, that assessment isn't far off the mark. Mr. Vronksy has obviously put a great deal of time into statistical research, and has written two other books about more recent/modern serial killers, and, apparently, from the last chapter, may have another book to come. His own casual "brushes" with 3 modern killers made me wonder, in my own life, if I, perhaps, have come into contact with someone who isn't what they seem to be...a chilling thought, and one that may keep me awake a little longer, tonight...listening....

  24. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    One of the better serial killer histories I’ve read, with details I’d never heard, references to books and media I now want to check out, and interesting new theories. I don’t necessarily agree with all of Vronsky’s ideas, but nothing here is the same old regurgitated stuff ripped from other books. I also appreciate that Vronsky managed not to moralize when discussing case histories, which few other true crime writers can do. I’m pretty deeply active in the SK/true crime community, so it was a tr One of the better serial killer histories I’ve read, with details I’d never heard, references to books and media I now want to check out, and interesting new theories. I don’t necessarily agree with all of Vronsky’s ideas, but nothing here is the same old regurgitated stuff ripped from other books. I also appreciate that Vronsky managed not to moralize when discussing case histories, which few other true crime writers can do. I’m pretty deeply active in the SK/true crime community, so it was a trip to see a couple of people I know briefly referenced in the pages. *Edit 10/10 Review like from Vronsky himself! Sweet.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mariana Ferreira

    An incredibly thorough portrayal of serial killers from the Stone Age to current date, with research that is honestly mind-blowing. With a very peculiar sense of humor, Vronsky is never disrespectful , always insightful and an absolute delight to read. I'll simply have to check out the author's other books. An incredibly thorough portrayal of serial killers from the Stone Age to current date, with research that is honestly mind-blowing. With a very peculiar sense of humor, Vronsky is never disrespectful , always insightful and an absolute delight to read. I'll simply have to check out the author's other books.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dancing Marshmallow

    Overall: 4.5 stars. A fascinating look at the sociocultural history of serial murder. This book doesn’t delve too deeply into the facts of specific cases, but rather explores theories of violence/deviant behavior and how those explain the serial killings of specific time periods. It reads a lot like a combination of literary criticism and textbook, and you’re going to get a lot of academic name and theory drops here (Foucault, Freud) along with a mix of close reading of literary texts as account Overall: 4.5 stars. A fascinating look at the sociocultural history of serial murder. This book doesn’t delve too deeply into the facts of specific cases, but rather explores theories of violence/deviant behavior and how those explain the serial killings of specific time periods. It reads a lot like a combination of literary criticism and textbook, and you’re going to get a lot of academic name and theory drops here (Foucault, Freud) along with a mix of close reading of literary texts as accounts of serial killers like Little Red Riding Hood and Beowulf. I found the interpretation of the Inquisition, WWII, and the War on Terror as state-sanctioned serial violence absolutely fascinating and enjoyed reading theories of othering racial minorities, women, and sex workers as “less alive”/“less dead” and thus more prone to being victims of violence whose deaths are ignored by mainstream culture. Chilling and sad, but very true. A lot of interesting and challenging ideas raised by this book. This is not a read for everyone, however, I suspect. This is not a standard true crime book, skimpy as it is on the case details, and really revels in academic and theoretical discussions of paraphilias, sex, violence, gender, war, etc. It’s a big ideas book, and I loved it, but it might not be what every reader is looking for.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Sims

    We really think of serial killers as being a more or less modern phenomenon, peaking in the 1970s and 80s, but here Vronsky goes back in time, showing us how although there wasn't a word for it and often not even a rational explanation for it, serial killers have existed and been documented throughout history. It's maybe a bit more scholarly/dry than I was anticipating but if you like crime stuff and historical tidbits, I'd read it. We really think of serial killers as being a more or less modern phenomenon, peaking in the 1970s and 80s, but here Vronsky goes back in time, showing us how although there wasn't a word for it and often not even a rational explanation for it, serial killers have existed and been documented throughout history. It's maybe a bit more scholarly/dry than I was anticipating but if you like crime stuff and historical tidbits, I'd read it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    Filled with stats, facts and theories about serial killers through the ages, but there are some sections that can come off a bit dehumanizing. Overall a good place to start if you're just starting out on your true crime journey; however, it does not offer much new for an experienced true crimer. I received an ecopy of this through netgalley; however, all opinions are my own. Filled with stats, facts and theories about serial killers through the ages, but there are some sections that can come off a bit dehumanizing. Overall a good place to start if you're just starting out on your true crime journey; however, it does not offer much new for an experienced true crimer. I received an ecopy of this through netgalley; however, all opinions are my own.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a brilliant and readable historical/anthropological investigation into what creates serial killers. The author starts by saying that early homo sapiens were examples of serial killers, because killing was the primary way they defeated their enemies, and taking souvenirs of the creatures they killed was considered talismanic. The human species eventually evolved out of this subhuman nature as the idea of peaceful coexistence began to strike humans as pretty much a better idea than continua This is a brilliant and readable historical/anthropological investigation into what creates serial killers. The author starts by saying that early homo sapiens were examples of serial killers, because killing was the primary way they defeated their enemies, and taking souvenirs of the creatures they killed was considered talismanic. The human species eventually evolved out of this subhuman nature as the idea of peaceful coexistence began to strike humans as pretty much a better idea than continually living in predator/prey relationships with every other living creature. The persistence of myths about witches, werewolves, and various diabolical creatures, the author argues, was building a false system out of serial murder, the idea of which had never been articulated before. Thus series of murders became attributed to witches and werewolves rather than the idea that a single person could be so evil as to randomly kill large numbers of people over time. The author cites several historical eras that were marked by a misdirected fear of unholy things stalking and killing people. Even the story of Little Red Riding Hood was based on a fear of finding what you thought was a benign human only to discover that the person was actually a wolf in grandma's clothing. The original version of the fable did not have the woodsman rescuing Little Red. Doing a historical study of people (almost always men) who were serial killers, the author finds that 28 is the average age that they started killing. He relates this back to WWII, during which rape, torture, and defilement were far more prevalent than has ever been believed or accounted for. He estimates the age of the American soldiers who had participated in or witnessed atrocities, and compares that with the first great run of serial killers, who were children of the "Greatest Generation." Most of these 28-year-olds were children of these soldiers, and many of them came from broken homes or homes without a male parent. He also identifies the pornographic magazines that were easily available at typical newsstands into the 1950s, many with bondage themes and all of them misogynistic. Ultimately, he makes the most significant argument that serial killers are made, not born (although the fact of three-year-old Ted Bundy slipping butcher knives under his aunt's covers gives one pause). The author concludes that, with the diminution of serial-killer crimes in recent decades, it looks like the possibility exists that humankind has evolved out of that horrific mindset. His pages of statistics of known serial killers, their ages, their particular crimes, and their eventual capture or death, supports his theory entirely. This is a critical book to read not from a prurient viewpoint but because it provides solid statistical evidence of the author's theory. It is a brilliant and absorbing book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Reading (or rather, listening) to this book was incredibly, incredibly frustrating and I have A LOT to say. I initially wanted to pick this up because within the last year I’ve become interested in true-crime, with a focus on violent crime, but have found most true-crime texts I’ve been picking up have been written by those with backgrounds in psychology/psychiatry or criminal investigation (FBI etc.). Therefore, I was interested in hearing from a historical/anthropological perspective and I wasn Reading (or rather, listening) to this book was incredibly, incredibly frustrating and I have A LOT to say. I initially wanted to pick this up because within the last year I’ve become interested in true-crime, with a focus on violent crime, but have found most true-crime texts I’ve been picking up have been written by those with backgrounds in psychology/psychiatry or criminal investigation (FBI etc.). Therefore, I was interested in hearing from a historical/anthropological perspective and I wasn’t daunted by the 15 hours and 1 minute of run-time. But oh, God. Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. This book was hard to get through. The book struggles to decide whether or not it is about a unified theory of serial killers or a historical catalogue of them. As a result, it kept flipping back and forth between broadly looking at serial killers as phenomenon of sorts to detailing specific cases in vivid and disturbingly graphic detail. It’s like Vronsky wanted to write three different books, couldn’t decide which one he liked best and just decided to force them all into one. Vronsky attempted to call upon some theories of evolutionary psychology in explaining where it is that serial killers come from but his hypothesis that serial killing is a “natural” state of being for humanity is… dubious, if not altogether unnerving. It also reeks of misogyny and transphobia, reinforcing the harmful narrative that men/males are naturally violent and predatory and women/females are naturally nurturing. Conversely, I found Vronsky’s statements that the existence of some serial killers is the fault of their mothers, due to them dressing them up as girls and thus giving them a warped sense of identity, upsetting. While I think this abuse of a child (or any) is deplorable, I think blaming the mothers, some of whom were ultimately murdered by their sons, for them becoming serial killers is suspect. I also strongly disliked the manner in which he described certain individuals and groups of individuals did not sit well with me. For example, when describing the White Chapel district murders he portrays Jack the Ripper’s victims as diseased grotesques and invokes a sense of inhumanity that felt extremely unempathetic and callous. Vronsky starts the book by associating the concepts of vampires and werewolves (tales which have a basis in most various folklore across the globe) as medieval explanations for serial killers and the act of serial murder. H e progresses slowly, detailing early nineteenth century European cases. He also establishes that Jack the Ripper, while the earliest serial killer who remains infamous today, was nowhere near the first ever “modern” serial killer. This is all fine and fairly interesting and I genuinely enjoyed the sections where he went into detail on less well-known cases. Vronsky does have some interesting ideas, I will admit that I enjoyed certain parts of the text. However, Vronsky had a weird preoccupation with the witch hunts and stated that they were a Church sanctioned serial killing of women. This, while an interesting idea, had no real relevance to what he was trying to do as the persecution of women under the guise of witchcraft does not fit into the definition of a serial killer/serial killings; something he outlines at the beginning of the text. He also had a habit of including some infuriating formatting. In a section in the latter chapters of the book, Vronsky lists the names, birthdays and years “active” of serial killers for several minutes. (I was listening to the audiobook on 2x speed and I sat there for, at least, five minutes listening to this before I got annoyed and started skipping.) He also included multiple lurid headlines from men’s magazines (most of which were also listed) that fetishised the rape, torture and brutal torture of women which felt unnecessary. While all these things bothered me, it was the following line regarding Vronsky’s hypothesis that the trauma of WWII contributed to the development of serial killers like Ted Bundy, the BTK Strangler and John Wayne Gacey (ect.) that really pissed me off: “My war trauma hypothesis invites an ambitious undergraduate or graduate student to collect and analyze the military histories of the fathers and grandfathers of the 'golden age' of serial killers.”

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