The Anatomy of Motive, John Douglas

B & N link
Originally published in 1999, therefore becoming somewhat dated, although the history is always fascinating and Douglas' observations as an FBI profiler no doubt remain essentially on the mark, human nature being what it is. I took a class once on "The Philosophy of Evil," and I think we should have read this. Douglas emphasizes again and again the cowardice and inadequacy of these men--that's not being sexist, there really are way more men--who do hideous things in order to feel in power, in control, important. There's a kind of toxic combination of higher-than-average IQ (often) with low socio-economic status: situations in which white men--and that's not being racist, because in Douglas' experience most of them are white--feel the world owes them.

I think one of the most disturbing things about this--well, there is a lot that's disturbing in true crime--is Douglas' grim view of recidivism. Essentially, the criminal (he considers sexual predators, spree-killers, arsonists, and bombers in depth) is driven by psychological factors that only escalate violence, the way an addict might need to keep increasing the amount of drug. The best solution here looks like capturing people as early as possible and removing them from society. Douglas, at least of this writing, makes a case for capital punishment as a method of stopping someone who will never be able to stop himself. A fascinating read, if you have the stomach for it.