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Nonfiction in Brief

SERIAL KILLERS The Growing Menace by Joel Norris (Doubleday: $18.95)

August 14, 1988|ALEX RAKSIN

Being seen as "soft on crime" can doom many a candidate's chances in November, and so it's not surprising that this year's campaign rhetoric rings with familiar calls for "law and order," stiffer prison sentences and more capital punishment. "Serial Killers," an impressive interdisciplinary effort by a psychologist specializing in criminology, contends that this stance--however tough-sounding--has done and will do little to stop spiraling rates of violent crime in America. As Joel Norris sees it, crime is a public health problem traceable to pathological conditions of mind and body which can be spotted at an early stage and treated before society itself is damaged. Norris is hardly the first to say crime is a product of both nature and nurture, of course, but he is one of few to integrate these arguments into an absorbing, readable text that combines intimate profiles of serial killers with a serious discussion of psychobiology and a practical guide to diagnosing the pathological personality.

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