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Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

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From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghou From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghouls and witches or, later, Hitchcockian psychos. In Sons of Cain--a book that fills the gap between dry academic studies and sensationalized true crime--investigative historian Peter Vronsky examines our understanding of serial killing from its prehistoric anthropological evolutionary dimensions in the pre-civilization era (c. 15,000 BC) to today. Delving further back into human history and deeper into the human psyche than Serial Killers--Vronsky's 2004 book, which has been called "the definitive history of the phenomenon of serial murder"--he focuses strictly on sexual serial killers: thrill killers who engage in murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and necrophilia, as opposed to for-profit serial killers, including hit men, or "political" serial killers, like terrorists or genocidal murderers. These sexual serial killers differ from all other serial killers in their motives and their foundations. They are uniquely human and--as popular culture has demonstrated--uniquely fascinating.


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From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghou From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes. Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghouls and witches or, later, Hitchcockian psychos. In Sons of Cain--a book that fills the gap between dry academic studies and sensationalized true crime--investigative historian Peter Vronsky examines our understanding of serial killing from its prehistoric anthropological evolutionary dimensions in the pre-civilization era (c. 15,000 BC) to today. Delving further back into human history and deeper into the human psyche than Serial Killers--Vronsky's 2004 book, which has been called "the definitive history of the phenomenon of serial murder"--he focuses strictly on sexual serial killers: thrill killers who engage in murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and necrophilia, as opposed to for-profit serial killers, including hit men, or "political" serial killers, like terrorists or genocidal murderers. These sexual serial killers differ from all other serial killers in their motives and their foundations. They are uniquely human and--as popular culture has demonstrated--uniquely fascinating.

30 review for Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

  1. 5 out of 5

    HFK

    I read this through the night, and have mixed feelings. The info here is well researched, but the structure of the book is not in its best possible mode. The theory here is also a bit confusing in a sense that it seems to differ, get lost, and come back again either weaker or stronger depending on the subject. History here is presented easily, but some conclusions, and especially some comparisons, are quite weak. Comparing historical witch-hunts to current terrorists (in a favor of terrorists, of I read this through the night, and have mixed feelings. The info here is well researched, but the structure of the book is not in its best possible mode. The theory here is also a bit confusing in a sense that it seems to differ, get lost, and come back again either weaker or stronger depending on the subject. History here is presented easily, but some conclusions, and especially some comparisons, are quite weak. Comparing historical witch-hunts to current terrorists (in a favor of terrorists, of course) just shows a lack of understanding of the subject, but more so of what prevention means - as that prevention is the key why Vronsky is able to do comparison as fool as his was (he is not alone in this to be sure, it is rather trendy to not prevent and then be shocked when the shit hits the fan). Overall, if you fancy yourself some serial killer knowledge, Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present is safe bet to make. --- hybristophilia (a desire in a female to partner with a male serial killer, one of the few female paraphilias) While in the past serial killers were thought to be predominantly white males, today Eric Hickey’s survey shows that from 2004 to 2011, 57 percent of all serial killers were African-Americans; while the Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database indicates that in the 2010s, almost 60 percent of serial killers are African-Americans (this even though African-Americans make up only 13.2 percent of the American population). So far we are mostly focusing on the U.S. serial killer base, although the author is Canadian. Where the info is, there the seeker goes. How many African-American enjoyment-serial killers can you name without the help of a Google? You can throw your answer onto the comment section below the review. --- ... Few had time for a “hobby” like sexual serial killing; everyone was too busy struggling not to die... than five hundred unsolved homicides linked to interstate freeways, appeared to confirm this sense of the US highway system “circulating” serial killers like bad blood in the body of the American nation... I am rather amused by Vronsky's way of going through theories of why and what and how. A little bit of humor always works middle of an darker subject. I have to say that as much I enjoy this book, it might be difficult for a reader who needs to navigate this properly, it is not made easy. It will require some attention to keep all the pieces together. So, Vronsky is pondering on the subject of childhood trauma's and its effect on making serial killers, and why, at least seemingly, we had less serials in times when these childhood trauma's were part of majority of children's lives. I am happy to say that Vronsky picked up an great example in a "lesser-dead" (prostitutes, poor, minorities that do not arouse the interest of the media or authorities) chapter - Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton. This is an great (and sad) example how "lesser-deads" families and closest ones are treated, and how these victims are seen. There was 49 bodies to be found in his farm. "Lesser - deads". And what comes to the second quote: Sadly, I have to say that 74 percent of serial killers stay close to home, killing in the comfort of their own state. More likely a neighbor than a drifter. --- Vronsky argues that serial killing has been a taboo for most of our living time - long before serial killers became popular culture icons. That's probably true in a sense that we tend to understand better if a person kills for money, for gain, for revenge, for a cause of any kind... but for enjoyment. Which is why so many is interested of the how and why. Could it be that vampires and werewolves in myths and legends were people's way to describe serial killings of their time? Is what Vronsky suggests. Vampire legend is widely thought to be connected to the accidental burial of living (which happened quite often, I guess), but these myths are also truthful in describing disorganized (werewolves - messy, sudden and in full force) and organized (vampires - charming, intelligent, controlled) serial killers. Of course, myths about vampires and werewolves vary depending on the country, but then again, many serial killers are mix of both. Disorganized example: Jack the Ripper Organized example: Dennis Rader --- I will update this review as I read the book. I do not usually do this, but fuck it. Let's start with words that ring the truth-bell and set us in to the right mood. Today, according to the new guidelines, pretty much anyone qualifies as serial killer. It only requires two victims. After that, we have plenty of categories that would exhaust most readers, so there is no point of repeating them. But let's face it, when we talk about about serial killers, we mean people like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the likes. And among them, there is even more categories to go through, but most feared would most likely be sexual sadists - the ones who plan their actions and their main goal is to inflict as much pain and suffering as possible. The death is only an unavoidable outcome of their actions. To be sure - when I talk about serial killers, I am also focusing more on the cases mentioned above, that had the sexual aspect within, unless I am specifically mentioning other ways. I usually hold "the old three victims rule" as do most of my professors, but we also do recognize the ones that were in the making without victims, or the ones that only had one or two victims - but had the factors we are focusing in violent perpetrators. In the end, we have not reached satisfying conclusion of why and what makes a person a serial killer - everything if you want me to list all the theories - and how should we categorize them. What is the cooling off period. Who is a serial killer turned spree killer, who is serial spree killer and.... well, we could do this all night long, but ain't nobody got time for dat. Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present focuses on the history of serial killers from a Western point of view. This is necessary distinction to do as there is not enough research or data to do other ways, but also cultural, religious and whatnot indicators and factors are not the same around the globe, so there is very little point on going that road before proper and costly research to present with it. Every country has their own serial killers, and for some reason, there is still people who assume that mostly white in Western countries posses this ability to murder like you mean it. But in reality, some years there is less white captured serial killers than there is non-whites. It mostly walks hand in hand with the demography of the country, albeit sometimes there is over-representation to be seen. Only difference is the media coverage - which can screw someone's perspective altogether if letting to. Gender gap is obvious, but most females that are, indeed, serial killers are not convicted as such, and often in the case of couples, women are still seen victims of manipulation rather than full-powered partners in crime. In that, Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present, will not put its main focus onto females, which is okay, because Vronsky has written a whole book about female killers, too. This is a book heavy in research, data and sources, so it is not a best read for people who want it easy and light. It could also be that a good background knowledge would make this more readable to majority of readers that come into the subject with cold feet. Vronsky argues that serial killers are not made but unmade. He argues that in historical sense, starting from the stone age, majority of our time has been structured by 4 F's - fleeing, fighting, feeding and fucking. It was normal to kill, eat each others, rape - it was what we needed to do. He argues that Homo Sapiens survived because they developed a fear of the dead, which prevented us killing each others in such a major scale compared to the Neanderthals. In summary: we were designed to be serial killers, but along the way we programmed ourselves with guidance, parental love, safety and such things that has made serial killers to be the abnormality. In short - serial killers brain functions in our intended, primal ways. This, of course, is not a new theory, and it can also be controversial in that... You can go very, very long way with it if wanting to, and most professionals know that - and avoid the said route. It is not unusual to meet serial killers accidentally. They have been around since the start, and as this book will teach you - they have been on TV, many of them met high-position people and so on. I have superficially known one many years ago - a gay man who poisoned his older-husband, and couple of his friends on a timeline of many years. At the time I thought it was very weird and unusual, but I have learned quite a many things during the years to know it was not that at all. So, let's see where we end with this - who will be with me on this journey?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This is a comprehensive history of serial killers by author Peter Vronsky which discusses killers going way back, and talks about the coining of the term ‘serial killer’ and its use. Lots of research went into the book and it’s very well written. Unfortunately, I had trouble with parts of it due to my sleep disorder, which caused me difficulty getting through it so I’ll likely go back and read it again at a later date when it’s not acting up as much. For those interested in the subject, you may This is a comprehensive history of serial killers by author Peter Vronsky which discusses killers going way back, and talks about the coining of the term ‘serial killer’ and its use. Lots of research went into the book and it’s very well written. Unfortunately, I had trouble with parts of it due to my sleep disorder, which caused me difficulty getting through it so I’ll likely go back and read it again at a later date when it’s not acting up as much. For those interested in the subject, you may want to give this a look if you want to check out the history of them and how they came into being. A different type of books than the ones about their crimes and the trials, but fascinating in another way, for sure, as an overview. It is impressive with all of the information that went into it. It gives a good understanding of how they likely came into being from the very earliest of times, from the days of Cain and Abel...Adam and Eve. My thanks for the advance electronic copy provided by Netgalley, author Peter Vronsky, and the publisher, for my fair review. Berkley Publishing Group Pub: Aug 14th, 2018 My Bookzone blog on Wordpress: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany PSquared

    In this statistic-heavy book, Peter Vronsky researches the presence of serial killers throughout all of human history - from the Stone Age to present day and even the possibility of their proliferation in the not-so-distant future. Sons of Cain explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. The eras of supposed werewolf/vampire slayings and witch huntings are also discussed. Occurrences of serial murder in histor In this statistic-heavy book, Peter Vronsky researches the presence of serial killers throughout all of human history - from the Stone Age to present day and even the possibility of their proliferation in the not-so-distant future. Sons of Cain explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. The eras of supposed werewolf/vampire slayings and witch huntings are also discussed. Occurrences of serial murder in historic times is perhaps the most interesting and gruesome part of this book. Well-researched and meticulously footnoted and annotated, the book still seems to neglect female offenders in this category, although it is very inclusive of little-known male offenders that aren't often included in serial killer discussions. Sons of Cain was at times captivating (especially Vronsky's personal encounter with a noted serial killer) and at times gruesome and disheartening. There are graphic descriptions of individual crimes and discouraging statistics about the vast numbers of killers and the infinitely varied reasons that they become what they are. Recommended for readers who, like me, are obsessed with learning about why these psychopathic killers commit their horrific crimes, but don't expect any easy answers. ***Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing Group, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a free ARC of this book. See my full review of this book and others at That New Book Smell

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott S.

    In Sons of Cain, author Vronsky (a historian who has authored other true crime books) presents a well-researched and very detailed if occasionally dry exploration of the serial killer phenomenon. Split into three sections, the early chapters outline the psychology and the science aspect. In the second part Vronsky dives deeply into history, with a fair amount of page dedicated to the lesser-known European murderers in the 15th through 19th centuries who pre-date the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' ca In Sons of Cain, author Vronsky (a historian who has authored other true crime books) presents a well-researched and very detailed if occasionally dry exploration of the serial killer phenomenon. Split into three sections, the early chapters outline the psychology and the science aspect. In the second part Vronsky dives deeply into history, with a fair amount of page dedicated to the lesser-known European murderers in the 15th through 19th centuries who pre-date the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' case. 'Jack' is used as the launch into the conclusion which leads to the so-called 'golden age' - the author's words, not mine - in the U.S. from the late 60's to the start of the 21st century. In a good way (as to not glamorize them any further, at least) many of the notable 'monsters' of the latter part of the 20th century - Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. - get only token mentions and their cases are not actually discussed in depth. That's fine, really, as their horrible and disgusting actions have been already written about in numerous other books over the years. Vronsky presents some intriguing theories as to why America experienced such an increase in serial killer activity in the 70's, 80's and 90's, as well as why said activity appeared to decrease after 2000. There are some terrifying and tasteless parts of Sons of Cain, but the book is meant more for educational purposes than entertainment. (The reader is not yukking it up following the adventures of Hannibal Lecter.) It demonstrates that evil walks this earth, and could be as close as next door. 4.5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)

    This book contained so much information! I was not expecting it to be so complex. The book is broken into 3 different sections; On the Origin of Species: The Evolution of Serial Killers, Serial Killer Chronicles: The Early Forensic History of Monsters and The New Age of Monsters: The Rise of the Modern Serial Killer. This book included information about serial killers that I have never even heard of and went back hundreds and hundreds of years. It is very well researched and the author talked ab This book contained so much information! I was not expecting it to be so complex. The book is broken into 3 different sections; On the Origin of Species: The Evolution of Serial Killers, Serial Killer Chronicles: The Early Forensic History of Monsters and The New Age of Monsters: The Rise of the Modern Serial Killer. This book included information about serial killers that I have never even heard of and went back hundreds and hundreds of years. It is very well researched and the author talked about things I was even familiar with. I was more familiar with infamous serial killers such as Jack the Ripper and individuals in the United States from 1950-2000. This was a really interesting book and I think that anyone who enjoys reading about serial killers and true crime will really enjoy this book. It is fairly dense and contains a great deal of information. Thank you to the publisher, Berkley, for sending me an ARC of this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    Sons of Cain is the story of real serial killers from the stone age to now. The book is divided into three parts. Part I contains definitions, Earth’s history and man’s place in it, and psychological diseases that may be causing serial killers to be more frequent now. Part II and III are the meat of the book focusing on pre-Industrial society and from Jack the Ripper forward, respectively. You can skip Part I and just look up anything for which you need additional information later. It’s written l Sons of Cain is the story of real serial killers from the stone age to now. The book is divided into three parts. Part I contains definitions, Earth’s history and man’s place in it, and psychological diseases that may be causing serial killers to be more frequent now. Part II and III are the meat of the book focusing on pre-Industrial society and from Jack the Ripper forward, respectively. You can skip Part I and just look up anything for which you need additional information later. It’s written like a textbook—informative but bone dry. In addition, if you are not a fan of Darwin’s evolution, it goes down that rabbit hole for a bit too. The remaining parts are a mixed bag of pedantic, interesting and fascinating. My favorites were the 1874 Bostonian 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy, Jack the Ripper and the extensive analysis of why serial killers began to be more prevalent in 1960s to peaking in the 1990s. Sons of Cain is an interesting true tale of serial killers. It is recommended for readers or viewers of thrillers containing serial killers like Silence of the Lambs and Dexter. It is highly recommended to writers of stories involving serial killers. And, of course, current, past or future serial killers (you know who you are) should pick up this book to avoid making the same mistakes as their predecessors (just kidding). 4 stars! Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Neelam Babul

    I first read about serial killers in an article I came across and later on studied them in depth as part of my studies for my bachelor's degree in law. This book is a comprehensive guide on the origin of serial killers, their history from the stone age to the current times as well as their evolution and transformation. The writer also presents brief biographies of various serial killers throughout the ages. A conclusive guide on understanding and widening your awareness on the subject.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Alright, so you're talking to someone that loves history (the more facts, the better!) and it's a bonus that this is about serial killers. I loved that it also included serial killers that I hadn't heard of before and that we went so far back into history to study them. I'll warn you now, this one is a lot more technical than you would expect (which could translate into a more dry read for some). The amount of research that went into this book is amazing. SONS OF CAIN focuses more on the serial k Alright, so you're talking to someone that loves history (the more facts, the better!) and it's a bonus that this is about serial killers. I loved that it also included serial killers that I hadn't heard of before and that we went so far back into history to study them. I'll warn you now, this one is a lot more technical than you would expect (which could translate into a more dry read for some). The amount of research that went into this book is amazing. SONS OF CAIN focuses more on the serial killers that commit sexual crimes and killings. What makes them different than other killers? As a warning, these killers engage in rape, torture, cannibalism, and even necrophilia, so if those topics are ones you wish to avoid, then this won't be the book for you. This dives deep into the minds of these killers and also examines why the public seems to be so fascinated and mesmerized by their horrific crimes. I think the most captivating and creepy part of this book was hearing about the author's personal brushes with some of these killers. Makes you wonder if you've ever interacted with or encountered someone like this. This is why I will always love to read true crime novels and why they will scare me the most. These people exist(ed) and these crimes actually happened, if that's not chilling and terrifying, then I don't know what is. If you're a fan of true crime and are curious about a more in-depth history of these kinds of killers, then this will be a truly fascinating read. Again, this book is very technical and heavily researched, so it may read like a textbook or encyclopedia for some readers. I will be going back to find his other books about the more modern serial killers!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne-Ann

    A well-written book. I had worried that it might just be the usual sensationalism, but it was just what I had hoped for; a book delving into the human mind and what sometimes goes wrong. I've been interested in serial killers and their psychology and physiology since before university days. I took several courses on Social Deviance and Social Control and Penology and Corrections and have read many biographies of serial killers. But I have never been interested in salacious details; more interest A well-written book. I had worried that it might just be the usual sensationalism, but it was just what I had hoped for; a book delving into the human mind and what sometimes goes wrong. I've been interested in serial killers and their psychology and physiology since before university days. I took several courses on Social Deviance and Social Control and Penology and Corrections and have read many biographies of serial killers. But I have never been interested in salacious details; more interested in how their minds function. This review - from prehistoric times to the present - did not disappoint.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Like most people who would find themselves interested in this book, I have an odd obsession with serial killers. I'm still upset over the closing of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment where their serial killer exhibit had some very fascinating artifacts like Bundy's car and Gacy's paintbox and some paintings, etc. So to satisfy my morbid curiosity, I turn to books. I was lucky enough to win this one. The book is divided in three parts. The first section gets into the definition of a se Like most people who would find themselves interested in this book, I have an odd obsession with serial killers. I'm still upset over the closing of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment where their serial killer exhibit had some very fascinating artifacts like Bundy's car and Gacy's paintbox and some paintings, etc. So to satisfy my morbid curiosity, I turn to books. I was lucky enough to win this one. The book is divided in three parts. The first section gets into the definition of a serial killer, what psychological characteristics are present, and evolution. The second and third section explore serial killers through history and the events in history that are often overlooked in regard to serial killers being involved. The first part reads pretty dry and like a textbook. The second and third parts are much more entertaining. I appreciate the theories Vronsky came up with and how much research clearly went into putting this book together. Recommended to readers who enjoy books about serial killers. I won this through goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    I received an ARC of this book thru the Goodreads Giveaway - it wasn't my usual genre of reading material, but, sounded intriguing from the description. While there were a few shudder inducing details, for the most part, it was a very well researched and written analysis of serial killings throughout history. I had never looked at the medieval witch-hunts or the atrocities of World War II as examples of serial killers gone amok, but, reading this book, that assessment isn't far off the mark. Mr. I received an ARC of this book thru the Goodreads Giveaway - it wasn't my usual genre of reading material, but, sounded intriguing from the description. While there were a few shudder inducing details, for the most part, it was a very well researched and written analysis of serial killings throughout history. I had never looked at the medieval witch-hunts or the atrocities of World War II as examples of serial killers gone amok, but, reading this book, that assessment isn't far off the mark. Mr. Vronksy has obviously put a great deal of time into statistical research, and has written two other books about more recent/modern serial killers, and, apparently, from the last chapter, may have another book to come. His own casual "brushes" with 3 modern killers made me wonder, in my own life, if I, perhaps, have come into contact with someone who isn't what they seem to be...a chilling thought, and one that may keep me awake a little longer, tonight...listening....

  12. 4 out of 5

    stephanie

    i got a copy of this from berkley pub and goodreads on a giveaway, which is awesome awesome awesome! many thanks to all of the kind humans who make things like this possible. this is a surprisingly entertaining read for how history/sciency/technical it gets in some places. and while the way-back-history doesn't get too many pages, it still adds interesting context for, if nothing else, how these types of killers have been regarded/thought of by society centuries ago. and there are plenty of case i got a copy of this from berkley pub and goodreads on a giveaway, which is awesome awesome awesome! many thanks to all of the kind humans who make things like this possible. this is a surprisingly entertaining read for how history/sciency/technical it gets in some places. and while the way-back-history doesn't get too many pages, it still adds interesting context for, if nothing else, how these types of killers have been regarded/thought of by society centuries ago. and there are plenty of case studies from different historical periods to keep things in perspective and kind of drive home the 'the more things change the more they stay the same' idea. there's a really interesting theory about the 'golden age' of serial killers, and why there were so, so many between the '70s and '90s...no spoilers, but it's fascinating. putting serial killers into such a large historical, societal, cultural framework just adds a next-level dimension to the creepy/compelling factor. i really loved this.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a brilliant and readable historical/anthropological investigation into what creates serial killers. The author starts by saying that early homo sapiens were examples of serial killers, because killing was the primary way they defeated their enemies, and taking souvenirs of the creatures they killed was considered talismanic. The human species eventually evolved out of this subhuman nature as the idea of peaceful coexistence began to strike humans as pretty much a better idea than continua This is a brilliant and readable historical/anthropological investigation into what creates serial killers. The author starts by saying that early homo sapiens were examples of serial killers, because killing was the primary way they defeated their enemies, and taking souvenirs of the creatures they killed was considered talismanic. The human species eventually evolved out of this subhuman nature as the idea of peaceful coexistence began to strike humans as pretty much a better idea than continually living in predator/prey relationships with every other living creature. The persistence of myths about witches, werewolves, and various diabolical creatures, the author argues, was building a false system out of serial murder, the idea of which had never been articulated before. Thus series of murders became attributed to witches and werewolves rather than the idea that a single person could be so evil as to randomly kill large numbers of people over time. The author cites several historical eras that were marked by a misdirected fear of unholy things stalking and killing people. Even the story of Little Red Riding Hood was based on a fear of finding what you thought was a benign human only to discover that the person was actually a wolf in grandma's clothing. The original version of the fable did not have the woodsman rescuing Little Red. Doing a historical study of people (almost always men) who were serial killers, the author finds that 28 is the average age that they started killing. He relates this back to WWII, during which rape, torture, and defilement were far more prevalent than has ever been believed or accounted for. He estimates the age of the American soldiers who had participated in or witnessed atrocities, and compares that with the first great run of serial killers, who were children of the "Greatest Generation." Most of these 28-year-olds were children of these soldiers, and many of them came from broken homes or homes without a male parent. He also identifies the pornographic magazines that were easily available at typical newsstands into the 1950s, many with bondage themes and all of them misogynistic. Ultimately, he makes the most significant argument that serial killers are made, not born (although the fact of three-year-old Ted Bundy slipping butcher knives under his aunt's covers gives one pause). The author concludes that, with the diminution of serial-killer crimes in recent decades, it looks like the possibility exists that humankind has evolved out of that horrific mindset. His pages of statistics of known serial killers, their ages, their particular crimes, and their eventual capture or death, supports his theory entirely. This is a critical book to read not from a prurient viewpoint but because it provides solid statistical evidence of the author's theory. It is a brilliant and absorbing book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    One of the better serial killer histories I’ve read, with details I’d never heard, references to books and media I now want to check out, and interesting new theories. I don’t necessarily agree with all of Vronsky’s ideas, but nothing here is the same old regurgitated stuff ripped from other books. I also appreciate that Vronsky managed not to moralize when discussing case histories, which few other true crime writers can do. I’m pretty deeply active in the SK/true crime community, so it was a tr One of the better serial killer histories I’ve read, with details I’d never heard, references to books and media I now want to check out, and interesting new theories. I don’t necessarily agree with all of Vronsky’s ideas, but nothing here is the same old regurgitated stuff ripped from other books. I also appreciate that Vronsky managed not to moralize when discussing case histories, which few other true crime writers can do. I’m pretty deeply active in the SK/true crime community, so it was a trip to see a couple of people I know briefly referenced in the pages. *Edit 10/10 Review like from Vronsky himself! Sweet.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Book explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. Occurrences of serial murder in historic times is perhaps the most interesting and gruesome part of this book. I think I was in shock over the birthdates of killers like Ramirez, Dahmer, Bundy and others. They were all baby-boomers. All had fathers damaged during the depression and WWII.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Rating: 3.5 stars I received a free e-ARC in exchange for a review. This is an academic book, so it's a bit drier than your usual true crime book. While the entire book was really interesting, it really soars when the author hones in on one serial killer or reflects on his personal encounters with serials. In the beginning half of the book, there were a lot of references to Peter Vronsky's previous books. Obviously he's building on previous research, so while it makes sense, it did get a bit repe Rating: 3.5 stars I received a free e-ARC in exchange for a review. This is an academic book, so it's a bit drier than your usual true crime book. While the entire book was really interesting, it really soars when the author hones in on one serial killer or reflects on his personal encounters with serials. In the beginning half of the book, there were a lot of references to Peter Vronsky's previous books. Obviously he's building on previous research, so while it makes sense, it did get a bit repetitive. There were a few points I didn't agree with, including the author's claim that the Columbine shooters would be self-radicalized ISIS terrorists if they were teenagers now. I don't agree. There are still a lot of radicalized school shooters, so the argument doesn't hold weight to me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky, continues his studies in serial killers, marking his third work on this subject. This particularly book focuses on "sexual serial killers from the stone age to the present." Vronky does this by dividing the book into three sections. The first, details the evolution of the serial killer from the early days of humanity. Section II explores I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky, continues his studies in serial killers, marking his third work on this subject. This particularly book focuses on "sexual serial killers from the stone age to the present." Vronky does this by dividing the book into three sections. The first, details the evolution of the serial killer from the early days of humanity. Section II explores them from modernity through to right before Jack the Ripper. The final section explores serial killers from Jack the Ripper to the present day. Highly detailed in both examples and statistics, this book is very informative and would appeal to any true crime reader. However, the title as a whole should have an asterisks after it as this study is based primarily on Western Europe and the United States. It begs the question, are serial killers primarily a Western phenomenon? Or just a lack of readily, or easily accessible records? Only for a few pages do I recall mention of nations outside of the US or Europe (Page 279-280). Vronsky used the Radford University Serial Killer Database numeric extensively, but as he acknowledges, their numbers outside of the US for the 1900-1950 range are "likely very low" due in part to the inaccessibility of un-digitzed newspapers. While so much of this work is reliant on newspapers and the surviving public records it seems a less vague title would better reflect the content. Having little background in anthropology or psychology I found the first 70 pages very difficult to read through as they were focused on early man and the reptilian brain, definitions of serial killers and psychologically classifications. Once one gets past this section the reading is much easier as it has a somewhat better focus. Vronsky unfortunately constantly jumps back and forth in time showing his extensive knowledge of serial killers by stating a historic case and then naming or alluding to a modern killer with similar practices. These types of comments seem more appropriate for footnotes, which hopefully the published edition will have.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ric Evans

    Vronsky goes back to the beginning and shows us how murder has always been a staple of human existence, from the Stone Age to present day. This is a chilling journey, all the more terrifying because it is real. From Neanderthal man and his fight for survival against his rival Homo Sapiens, through the superstitious era of werewolves, vampires, witch hunting, and serial murders of the Middle Ages and beyond, finally culminating with the Golden Age of Serial Killers in the late 20th Century, Vrons Vronsky goes back to the beginning and shows us how murder has always been a staple of human existence, from the Stone Age to present day. This is a chilling journey, all the more terrifying because it is real. From Neanderthal man and his fight for survival against his rival Homo Sapiens, through the superstitious era of werewolves, vampires, witch hunting, and serial murders of the Middle Ages and beyond, finally culminating with the Golden Age of Serial Killers in the late 20th Century, Vronsky paints a vivid, lucid, almost frightening portrait of the darkness that can be found in mankind. Early on the author makes the point that Mother Nature is a cruel psychopath herself, with no empathy for her progeny. This is true, of course. History is filled with acts of mass murder by Mother Nature. History is also filled with acts of serial murder and mass murder by men and, on occasion, women, although the author has very little to say about the female serial killer in this book. I was almost stunned to learn that there has been and continues to be a sizable number of sexual serial killers living amongst us. With over 50 pages of Bibliography and Endnotes it is quite evident that this book was well-researched, and the author was almost painstaking in his use of footnotes and annotations. The downside is that he spends very little time discussing the subject of serial killers after the 20th Century; and the book would lead one to believe that all serial killers are white and in their late 20’s to mid-30’s, although Vronsky does mention that over 50% of serial killers are now African-American according to the FBI. This book is often very explicit in discussing the specific details of some of the crimes and I, personally, had to stop sometimes, take a break from reading about the atrocities people are capable of rendering on their fellow man and/or woman. I suspect this is not a book for the squeamish, but I read it because I write horror fiction and I have had a fascination for serial murder since the late ‘60’s, reading about San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer, a man, presumably, who was never caught. I still don’t know who the Zodiac Killer was, but I certainly know a great deal more about serial killers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    April Forker

    received Sons of Cain from NetGalley for an honest review - thank you for sending me this! I love anything involving true crime - books, movies, shows, podcasts, etc. so I was excited to win this book! This book had a TON of information in it. This would be a great book for anyone wanting to actually research serial killers and true crime as it is very fact heavy. My favorite part of the book was the part about the "modern" serial killer as those are the stories that I already had some knowledge received Sons of Cain from NetGalley for an honest review - thank you for sending me this! I love anything involving true crime - books, movies, shows, podcasts, etc. so I was excited to win this book! This book had a TON of information in it. This would be a great book for anyone wanting to actually research serial killers and true crime as it is very fact heavy. My favorite part of the book was the part about the "modern" serial killer as those are the stories that I already had some knowledge about and that have interested me prior to this book. This book would be great for anyone interested in crime non fiction with a lot of detailed information and facts.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Sons of Cain gives the reader a comprehensive look at the history of serial killers - the crimes, criminals, and methods used to track them down. Vronsky's complete record of serial killers - including ancient and prehistoric killers - and his ideas make this a very thought provoking read. I would recommend this to anyone that is interested in true crime. I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads Giveaways.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    First I would like to state that I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. I really enjoy the authors writing style, the author pulls you into the book from the very beginning and makes it so you don't want to put the book down. It kept me on the edge of my seat reading from cover to cover. Thi First I would like to state that I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. I really enjoy the authors writing style, the author pulls you into the book from the very beginning and makes it so you don't want to put the book down. It kept me on the edge of my seat reading from cover to cover. This book was a very interesting read. The author kept you interested from the first chapter to the very last. It pulls you in quickly and keeps you hooked wanting to read and find out what is happening. I would recommend this to anyone. This was a very good book .

  22. 5 out of 5

    C.

    A very fascinating and well researched read about the history of serial killers. The chapters on the history of 'werewolves' and 'witches' were very interesting and informative.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emerson

    Yes, this is high in facts and statistics. It's also brilliant. It shows interesting, historical trends, and what events have led to them. This has been wonderful for me, as I've striven to understand why people like this become who they are while others, given the same circumstances, do not. We have come out of our ancestors and have these vestigial urges from stone-age man. For the most part, these have become easier to deny. We indulge them in video games and in court, instead of in active vi Yes, this is high in facts and statistics. It's also brilliant. It shows interesting, historical trends, and what events have led to them. This has been wonderful for me, as I've striven to understand why people like this become who they are while others, given the same circumstances, do not. We have come out of our ancestors and have these vestigial urges from stone-age man. For the most part, these have become easier to deny. We indulge them in video games and in court, instead of in active violence. Some of us, it seems, are less evolved, unable to contain and control these primitive urges. This doesn't excuse them, but, for my part, at least, I understand. That is what makes this book a huge win for me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linden A.

    Mentioned in BBC article “Why were there so many serial killers in the 1980s?” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-ca...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melise Gerber

    As a lover of horror novels, I have read my fair share of books about serial killers--both fiction and non-fiction. However, this is the first scholarly study that I have ever read about the serial killer phenomenon. I found it well-written, and quite interesting. Vronsky provides an overview of current thinking about what defines a serial killer, and then brings that categorization to a review of history, describing events throughout human history that can be defined as examples of serial killi As a lover of horror novels, I have read my fair share of books about serial killers--both fiction and non-fiction. However, this is the first scholarly study that I have ever read about the serial killer phenomenon. I found it well-written, and quite interesting. Vronsky provides an overview of current thinking about what defines a serial killer, and then brings that categorization to a review of history, describing events throughout human history that can be defined as examples of serial killings. I found his arguments well-expressed and convincing, and since finishing the book, I have continued to think about other historical events and whether they might not also fit within the context that he has outlined as indicating the work of serial killers (the Spanish Inquisition stands out particularly in my mind). Towards the end of the book, he examines what seems to have been a spike of serial killings that occurred from the 1970s to the early 1990s. He argues that this group of killers was growing up in the years just after World War II, and posits emotional and societal changes that arose out of the experience of that war may have had a strong impact on the children of people who lived through it, and thus indirectly led to the spike occurring when it did. I found his discussion of the popularity of pulp magazines in the "True Crime Detective" genre particularly interesting, as it reminded me quite a bit of Steven King's references to the influence similar magazines had on his development as a horror author. I wonder whether the dark emotions and desires that Vronsky believes might have played a role in shaping the minds of nascent serial killers might not in some way be related to their role in shaping young King's interest in horror. I received an advanced reading copy from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley. Thanks!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Smart

    This was disturbingly wonderful to read! Icantc can't wait to tell everyone about his book! Thank you netgalley for the free arc in exchange for an honest review!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

    “Justice withers, prison corrupts, and society gets the criminal it deserves.” - Lacassagne Putting to rest the idea that serial killings were an epidemic of the 20th century, historian Peter Vronsky sets out to explore the ancient and not-so-ancient history of pattern murderers across (mostly Western) societies. What I found most interesting is the argument that these crimes hold a mirror to the society and cultural conflicts of their time. Murder, necrophilia, or cannibalism may not have been s “Justice withers, prison corrupts, and society gets the criminal it deserves.” - Lacassagne Putting to rest the idea that serial killings were an epidemic of the 20th century, historian Peter Vronsky sets out to explore the ancient and not-so-ancient history of pattern murderers across (mostly Western) societies. What I found most interesting is the argument that these crimes hold a mirror to the society and cultural conflicts of their time. Murder, necrophilia, or cannibalism may not have been seen as ethical dilemmas until primitive homo sapiens began to develop a fear or reverence of death. But once cultural taboos were in place, the fantasy and delusions of serial murderers manifest as a reflection of their time. For instance in Medieval Europe, these types of murders were often attributed to supernatural causes such as werewolves, vampires or demonic possession. The pathologically cruel were welcomed into the folds of Inquisitions and witch hunts. Then, the Industrial Age and destabilization of the rural workforce incited an slew of murders targeting servants and working girls etc. This book was a fascinating recap of Western History through the observed patterns of serial murder. From World Wars to Civil Rights Movements to technological advancements, each generational wave brings forth new varieties of and new explanations for these human monsters. But the song remains the same... This book relies heavily on historical research and mountains of statistics. While definitely a strength, it should still be consumed critically. Vronsky is typically forthright in identifying sources and defining variables, but there are times I found myself paging through the References and left feeling a bit misled by the phrasing of his interpretation. This doesn't detract from the entertainment of the book overall, but I'd be cautious before citing any hypotheses as fact. That said, he does a fantastic job of name-dropping other books on the subject giving the reader plenty of opportunity to read up on it themselves! // I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vangluss

    + Comprehensive: Despite the title of this book, I wasn't expecting a super deep dive. I was expecting a nice examination of give or take a few notable serial killers, and their hows/whys/whens using a big history approach. I know how some books can oversell themselves, especially when they are what is needed to put food on the author's table. Instead, what I was surprised with was a well-done, grand, and wide-sweeping examination of serial killers from the disturbing origins of humanity all the + Comprehensive: Despite the title of this book, I wasn't expecting a super deep dive. I was expecting a nice examination of give or take a few notable serial killers, and their hows/whys/whens using a big history approach. I know how some books can oversell themselves, especially when they are what is needed to put food on the author's table. Instead, what I was surprised with was a well-done, grand, and wide-sweeping examination of serial killers from the disturbing origins of humanity all the way to the potential future of serial killers. Despite this massive undertaking and depth of information, the author has managed to make this book an easy, accessible read I would suggest to anybody into people into stabbing other people. + Fantastic Interdisciplinary Approach: Whenever you tackle a subject as complex and confusing as serial killers, your lens and frames of reference should be equally complex. Vronsky nails this with ease. Instead of just using a few frames of reference, the author manages to use multiple disciplines that include (but are not limited to) biology, psychology, history, anthropology, good ole' class politics, and sociology. Even with all these diverse disciplines in hand, Vronsky is able to craft a book that doesn't feel dry, cluttered, or confusing. + Good Sense of Dark Humor & Respect: Heavier topics like the mass murder of women during the infamous Witch Hunts of Europe require a good sense of tact. So it's generally considered a bad idea to crack jokes over stuff like this in polite company. Nevertheless, Vronsky is able to delve into this grim period of murderous, state-funded misogyny, and speak power to the victims. I wasn't expecting the European witch trials to pop up in a book about serial killers, but the author was able to weave it into his book in a way that was disturbing, chilling, and darkly illuminating. Moving past this, I'd also have to say that I found myself wheezing at some of the joking bits Vronsky wrote in elsewhere. He seems like the kind of guy I'd drink a cider with and talk about how much of a bitch life can be. +Nice Theory on the "Golden Age of American Serial Killers:" To avoid spoiling what I think was one of the more profound sections of the book, I won't explain it it detail. But I will still give him credit for being able to draw interesting connections between the return of veterans from WW2 and Vietman and the rise of the infamous serial killers. Believe me, it's good stuff, folks.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Once you get past the dryly didactic opening section, this becomes a very readable sociological study of serial killers. Where most English language books focus on exclusively British and American killers, many of the case histories Vronsky includes come from France, Spain, and Italy, so there was a lot of information that was new to me. So why only 3 stars? Well, Vronsky's research is sloppy and his conclusions can be suspect. He credits the unsolved Vilisca ax murders and several other cases t Once you get past the dryly didactic opening section, this becomes a very readable sociological study of serial killers. Where most English language books focus on exclusively British and American killers, many of the case histories Vronsky includes come from France, Spain, and Italy, so there was a lot of information that was new to me. So why only 3 stars? Well, Vronsky's research is sloppy and his conclusions can be suspect. He credits the unsolved Vilisca ax murders and several other cases to Henry Lee Moore, who was convicted of murder but only suspected of being serial killer, and cites a source that would easily have been refuted by literally any other source about the Vilisca case. He credits women executed for witchcraft as the innocent victims of serial killers but then Vronsky takes the conviction of Gilles de Rais, who was executed for witchraft and murder under similar circumstances, at face value and upholds de Rais as a serial killer. These logical leaps render the the whole book an entertaining but unreliable source.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lilias

    Overall very interesting. Some parts, though, were messy, and at first I thought that was Vronksy filling in for time periods about which there is little historical record. Conclusions were made without much evidence and comparisons were drawn that seemed very weak. As the book, and time, progressed, it all got a lot better, but there were still some errors (attributing the unsolved Villisca murders to Henry Lee Moore even though he is just one of a few suspects), and errors make me question the Overall very interesting. Some parts, though, were messy, and at first I thought that was Vronksy filling in for time periods about which there is little historical record. Conclusions were made without much evidence and comparisons were drawn that seemed very weak. As the book, and time, progressed, it all got a lot better, but there were still some errors (attributing the unsolved Villisca murders to Henry Lee Moore even though he is just one of a few suspects), and errors make me question the validity of whatever else I am taking in as I read. There was a rushed feeling to the book, which is too bad because it could have been excellent. Maybe it was to catch hold on the true crime trend, but such topics shouldn't be written about in a rushed manner.

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