A welcome contribution to the literature of crime and rehabilitation.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

STORIES OF HUMAN CRUELTY AND COMPASSION

A physician recounts stories from her years at Broadmoor, Britain’s premier psychiatric institution.

Over a working life of more than 30 years, Adshead has served patients at Broadmoor, a place with “a history of housing some of the UK’s most notorious violent criminals.” As in the U.S., mental health facilities in Britain have been starved of funds in recent years, and those violent criminals are shut away instead in ordinary prisons, where they become predators and prey. Writing with Horne, Adshead notes that 70% of prisoners in the U.K. “are estimated to have at least two mental health issues, ranging from depression to substance misuse and addiction or psychosis.” While most people with mental health issues are not criminals, those who are often pose difficulties in securing treatment and taking medications. Before delivering a series of sometimes-discomfiting case studies of serial murder, child abuse, infanticide, and other horrific acts, Adshead observes that nations that have experienced military occupation, such as Norway and Holland, have been the most progressive in treatment of the mentally ill, perhaps because they consider mentally ill criminals to be ill first and criminals second. The protagonists of her case studies would seem to fit this description, though dark passages abound—e.g., an inmate who seemed to be on the path to recovery but committed suicide: “Ian had been unable to come to terms with himself, and in his mind, death became his best or only option.” Adshead’s interest is not lurid, though there are lurid episodes, and her overarching goal is to secure more funding for better treatment. “I wish for my psychiatric great-grandchildren to look back on this period as if revisiting medieval times…[which] did little to help people fix or rediscover their minds, inside and outside of institutions.”

A welcome contribution to the literature of crime and rehabilitation.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982134-79-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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