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'Serial Killers' are bad, who's surprised?

Serial Killers: The World’s Most Evil – Nigel Blundell

Nigel Blundell’s Serial Killers: The World’s Most Evil continues his ‘World’s Most’ series. In itself, the volume is a made up of chapters, each one dedicated to a serial killer/pair of serial killers whose cruelty, as ranked by Dr Michael Stone’s “Scale of Evil”. However, the author only refers to either Dr Stone or his work in a couple of instances. There is also a very summary review of what are the measuring factors to the scale, making it nigh on irrelevant pseudo-justification. It makes one wonder: is this collection really a representation of the Most, as per the ranking; or is the ranking a mere excuse, and most of the cases are dealt with to meet Blundell’s fancy? Similarly, the cases only represent a range of countries, without in-depth research beyond the most accessible cases (US, UK, Canada Australia, and some continental European) – hardly ‘the world’.

The rationale behind the order of these best-known cases of serial killers is, as far as I have been able to discern, absent (maybe the Scale of Evil does stad behind it, but it is not clear). The chapters are short, and they attempt to present as factual a tale as possible. That, of course, is not always achieved despite the sparsity of detail on the victims and their specific cases. There is also a focus on the family background that smacks of hidden psychoanalysis, but won’t openly address it – it merely hints at it being the cause for the aberrant behaviours.

In short, this is a short compilation of the monsters that fascinate and horrify many social histories. There is nothing new or compelling, let alone current, but it is a quick read for dark moods (or after having watched a film/series on the subject).

Who would enjoy this

Serial Killers: The World’s Most Evil is a book for simple reference, and as such it would be a good read for people with a general curiosity about the subject, yet who don’t want to get too involved in details. Also, given that it is a very easy read, despite the subject matter, it suits a period of ‘in between books’ for readers of crime fiction and murder mysteries.

Who should give this a pass

Mr Blundell’s book is too superficial for a reader who has a keen interest in history, or who looks to understand the psychology of people the book talks about. I would therefore discourage serious crime and history readers from spending time on this – bar as an introductory overview, if they have interest to get a general view of the subject.

Additionally, this is not a book for thrill-seekers – it does not have enough detail and/or gore to entertain such readers. It is more like up update, than an up-to-date narrative.

Conclusions and suggestions

I was rather surprised that Nigel Blundell, an experienced journalist with many (and a few quite popular) titles to his name would produce what I can only see as lazy work. The information in Serial Killers: The World’s Most Evil is so accessible, the style so unremarkable, that it rather appears to be amateur, apprenticed ghost-writing.

I picked up the volume expecting to learn much, both morbidly and intellectually picked by the subject matter. Since I had nigh on no knowledge on serial killers to begin with, I did learn a bit. Mostly, how repetitive and gratuitously aggressive these people were. That was about it, really. In fact, I took to search the net for information supplementing that I had read in each chapter. That seemed more productive than the mere reading. Also, I realised how unreliable a supposed research text is, when it offers no source material referencing. This may be an offshoot of my academic background, but it gained in weight the further I progressed.

I haven’t read the previous volumes in the series, but if this tome is an indication of what to expect, I’m glad I haven’t got them in my waiting list. What I would suggest, in case it was not the case before, for any other future books in this collection:

- Bring new investigative findings to the table. We all can ‘Google’ up old information.

- If there is a ranking, there has to be a clear set for selection and classification. Explain and apply thoroughly.

- Always cite sources, with clear references to where in the text they apply.

- ‘The World’ is much larger than the geography covered here. Expand this by doing more research, or drop it.

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