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Tarachow, S. (1962). The Murderer and his Victim. By John M. Macdonald. With chapters by Stuart Boyd and James A. V. Galvin. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1961. 420 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 31:413-415.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:413-415

The Murderer and his Victim. By John M. Macdonald. With chapters by Stuart Boyd and James A. V. Galvin. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1961. 420 pp.

Review by:
Sidney Tarachow

This book is addressed to the general public and barely deserves review in This QUARTERLY. In his preface the author is apologetic for not being able to eliminate such words as 'ego' and 'superego' from the text. He then offers Rado's definitions of these terms, definitions expressed in social and moral terms. The book is intended as a somewhat encyclopedic presentation of the murderer, his victim, the psychology of murder, varieties of murder, the urge to confess, various mental disorders, the death penalty, and prophylaxis. It suffers enormously by trying to do too much, and fails in all specific areas. It is sketchy and incomplete both as to data and concepts offered. Statistics are presented, but they are local, with no controls, and the wildest comparisons are made and conclusions drawn. The book abounds in fragmentary case presentations illustrating various themes. No one example is thoroughly developed. The exception to this is the chapter by Stuart Boyd who presents a reasonably comprehensive psychiatric study of a murderer.

The least satisfactory aspects of the book are the psychiatric and psychological. The definitions offered of schizophrenia and psychopathy are at the level of a high school essay. The author's references to ethnic and anthropological data are childlike and naïve. For example, he makes the glib remark that poor Negroes are given to carrying knives. His discussion of ritual murder, murder among primitives, and political assassination is inadequate and taken from fragments of isolated data: the Aztecs are completely overlooked.

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