cover image Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer

Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer

Elliott Leyton. Running Press Book Publishers, $17.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1228-1

Originally published in 1984, Leyton's pioneering work on the psychology of mass murderers has been updated and revised for this second edition. Clearly written, thoroughly readable and deliberately free of sociological jargon, it is an important contribution to its field and to the public at large, for whom it clarifies a dark and nightmarish phenomenon of our time. Analyzing case histories from Bundy to Berkowitz, Leyton demystifies the mass murderer. He begins with a brilliant description of the foremost serial killer of fiction, Hannibal Lecter, and demonstrates how little he resembles his real-life counterparts. To begin with, there has not been an aristocratic serial killer in centuries; most, says Leyton, are from the working classes. Nor are they diabolical geniuses; rather, they tend to be surprisingly dull-witted. Leyton's contention is that serial killers are not insane, but a product of their environment. They have been with us for centuries, he argues, and tend to come and go cyclically. (Recent research claims that 15% of them are female.) According Leyton, the serial killer sees his act as a form of revenge upon a specific social class that has denied him the social acceptance that he craves. The elements of sadism and sexual pervasion are his means of punishing his supposed persecutors. A professor of anthropology at Memorial University in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Leyton has written a number of books on psychology, and this volume in particular is a most enlightening work.