cover image The Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind

The Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind

Ruth Rendell. Crown Publishing Group (NY), $24 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70347-2

How effective is a paragraph of Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment out of context? Not very, and that's the problem with Rendell's anthology of more than 100 snippets from sources as diverse as the Bible, Matthew Arnold's ""Sohrab and Rustum,"" Toni Morrison's Beloved and Melanie Klein's A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States. Rendell (Simisola) begins with the premise that the ``passions and terrors'' that motivate murderers are more interesting than the act of murder itself. No doubt this is true, but although some of the excerpts are good enough to send readers back to the complete sources, the exercise here is too limited. So are Rendell's brief introductory comments to each selection, e.g., ``A Mistreated wife takes revenge for a death.'' Rendell, brilliant at using narrative arc and duration to build suspense in her own writing, knows better. These digests are simply too neat. Like a funky highlight film, they provide neither a serious analytical approach nor a rich imaginative one. (Mar.)