Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guilty By Reason of Insanity

By: Dorothy Otnow Lewis, Jonathan H. Pincus

Rating: 4 stars

Who Should Read This Book: Anyone who has always wanted to explore the mind of a killer. It sounds morbid, and it is, but this book delves deeply into what makes people want to kill and how they got to be this way. For those with an interest in psychology and development, this book will keep you very intrigued.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A psychiatrist and internationally recognized expert on violence, Lewis has spent the last quarter of a century studying the minds of killers. Among the notorious murderers she has examined are Ted Bundy, Arthur Shawcross, and Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Here she shares her groundbreaking discoveries--and the chilling encounters that led to them.

My Thoughts:
I want to preface this review by saying that this book was very disturbing at various points. At one point I had to literally walk away from it and read another book because I was starting to have weird dreams from the different personal histories of the serial killers. With that being said though, this was a very interesting book. I am very interested in how the mind works and what makes people do the things they do, and this book really covered this. Dorothy Lewis did not set out to be a psychiatrist that made a living out of examining serial killers on death row, it was one of those situations she fell into and was shocked by what she found. Throughout the book she gives firsthand accounts of her interviews and how she adapted to her environment. She worked thoroughly with Dr. Pincus, as well, on many cases. He is a neurologist which works well with what Dr. Lewis does because they work together showing both the physical signs of illness from his examinations and the mental signs by her examinations.I actually saw a lecture delivered by Dr. Pincus at my work, and he had discussed how Dr. Lewis had gotten him in to the career of examining serial killers. After his lecture I was so interested I went on Goodreads and found this book.

Through reading this book I realized that things are not black and white when dealing with serial killers. Most come from years and years and years of horrific, terrifying abuse. I in no way condone any killing, but when learning about the physical, emotional, and mental abuse some of these people went through it started me thinking about at what point does a person just snap? Dr. Lewis also explores this question. I admire this woman who bravely sat in a room all alone with Ted Bundy, who handled herself well in interviews with multiple personality disorder patients, and who stood up for individuals up against the death penalty even when she was receiving death threats on a daily basis. This book was eye-opening for me, and although I know I could never do what she does, I give bravado to Dr. Lewis. I think one of my favorite parts in this book was when Dr. Lewis was talking to one of her patients, and she inquired as to why they liked her so much and requested her to come see them days before they were to be executed. The prisoner said it was because everyone they talked to always asked to hear the story of how they had killed their victims, and Dr. Lewis was the only one who asked not how, but why.

The reason I gave this book 4 starts instead of 5 was due to the fact that near the end I felt that situations started to get repetitive. Maybe it was just because I was so disturbed that so many situations like the ones in this book actually happen to people, but in any sense I felt that she could have started to wrap it up a little sooner than she did. Furthermore, the writing was a little choppy at points and there were times she would reference things from the past and I was slightly confused by some of this. Overall though, I highly recommend this book if you are able to digest the criteria behind the writing of it.

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