Killer Dads: The Twisted Drives that Compel Fathers to Murder Their Own Kids

Mary Papenfuss. Prometheus Books, $19 trade paper (275p) ISBN 978-1-61614-743-3
Spoiler alert: journalist Papenfuss’s depressing account of horrific violence doesn’t offer any insights. “I set out to gather all the facts I could on the killings, assuming the information would unlock the key to motivations and mechanisms toward murder. They didn’t.” Given that, readers who suffer through detailed accounts of savage acts of familicide, such as attorney William Parente’s 2009 killing of his wife and daughters, are likely to feel ill-used. The inclusion of the transcripts of emergency phone calls and heart-breaking photos of families in happier times appeals only to emotions, rather than to an analysis of how or why fathers end the lives they helped bring into the world. Papenfuss (coauthor, Climb Against the Odds) will open some eyes with a chapter on infanticide in the animal kingdom—particularly among primates—but given that her examples there include murderous mothers, her choice to focus just on men, even if they are statistically more likely to kill their children, is unclear. Are men and women so different that Susan Smith, who drowned her two children to sustain an affair, merits no mention at all? As is, Papenfuss’s project feels arbitrary and unnecessary. Photos. Agent: Claire Gerus, Claire Gerus Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
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