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Wigan, R. (2003). Psychoanalysis, Violence, and Rage-Type Murder, Murdering Minds by Duncan Cartwright. Brunner-Routledge, 2002.. Free Associations, 10(2):275-278.

(2003). Free Associations, 10(2):275-278

Psychoanalysis, Violence, and Rage-Type Murder, Murdering Minds by Duncan Cartwright. Brunner-Routledge, 2002.

Review by:
Rose Wigan

My first reaction, on seeing the purple cover of this book, was that it was a paler version of the cover of Arthur Hyatt Williams' invaluable book for the understanding of the criminal mind, Cruelty, Violence and Murder (1998). However, as I read the contents of this book, it soon became apparent that this was not a pale shadow of what Hyatt Williams has written, and although the author draws on the work of Hyatt Williams, the book itself is a hefty contribution to a psychodynamic understanding of a particular type of murder that the author calls ‘rage-type murder’. The murder that is perpetrated by a seemingly normal, ordinary man living a good life, without a previous criminal record, who suddenly with barely any provocation goes berserk, in a frenzied, almost motiveless fatal attack. This dire act can seem quite incomprehensible to the people who know that person. The common reaction being ‘it seems so out of character’. However, what Cartwright demonstrates is that, far from being out of character, this was a murder waiting to happen. His contention is that there is a group of offenders whose rigid, overcontrolled, and encapsulated personalities make them vulnerable to rare but extremely damaging acts of violence. Cartwright's approach is rooted in an object relations understanding of the personality, and that different forms of violence have different psychodynamic pathways, which hasn't always been made clear in the literature to date. In this book Cartwright focuses exclusively on this one group of ‘rage-type murderers’, using a wealth of knowledge and examples from his own clinical practice.

The book is very clearly set out, which makes it more digestible, a welcome contrast to the indigestibility of the intraphysic mind of the murderer. It is divided into three parts.

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