by Carl P. Malmquist, M.D., M.S.; Arlington, Virginia, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2006, 463 pages, $64
Dr. Dev is affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Dr. Pinals is assistant commissioner of forensic services, Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Boston.
Author Carl P. Malmquist is a psychiatrist who is board-certified in adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry. In his book Homicide: A Psychiatric Perspective, he displays his expertise in the area of violence and homicide as he discusses a wide range of medical, psychological, social, and legal topics pertinent to the trends of violence in society. This volume is the second edition of the original work. In his preface, Malmquist eloquently reflects on the ten years since the first edition, observing the changing professional landscape and increased interest in homicide.
Chapters in the book are organized around background information and diagnostic categories. Other related topics included in this book are battered women's syndrome, infanticide, and juvenile homicide. The book's layout is well organized, and the content covers tremendous ground. Malmquist begins with a discussion of the epidemiology of homicide and not only depicts how homicide rates have fluctuated within specific demographic populations over the course of recent decades but also suggests etiologies for these changes and outlines variables that may lead to an increased risk. In doing so, he lays a foundation for further discussion of the various patterns and methods of murder and provides case examples from his own work experience and from recent high-profile cases.
Malmquist attempts to explain the characteristics of those who commit homicide and those who become victims of homicide and the complex interpersonal relationships that can instigate a violent interaction between these individuals. His explanations of the theories that potentially lead to these deadly interactions include early psychological development and personality structure, and he discusses how individuals with various maladaptive personality styles can be pushed to the point of reacting violently. Malmquist then goes on to discuss the relationship of various psychiatric illnesses, such as depression, mania, psychosis, and posttraumatic stress disorder, to violence and homicide.
In addition to outlining a comprehensive view of how impaired psychological, social, and interpersonal functioning can lead to homicide, Malmquist reviews the research and current thinking regarding various biological factors that could predispose an individual to aggressive behaviors. These include genetic predispositions, altered states of consciousness, seizures, and the relationship of hormones and neurotransmitters to aggressive tendencies.
Malmquist's expertise in the field of forensic psychiatry is evident throughout the book as he outlines the history of legal arguments used in specific cases of violence with regard to criminal responsibility. Moreover, he discusses landmark legal cases related to homicide and the legal implications of the psychiatrist's involvement in homicide cases and in homicide research. He finishes by suggesting future research in specific areas, which is needed in order to improve our understanding of the nature of homicide in our culture.
Regardless of the forensic overtones in Homicide, this book would be a valuable resource for any psychiatrist or mental health professional. Given the impact that homicide has on our society, the possible relationship between violence and some psychiatric disorders, the fact that psychiatrists are responsible for assessing risk among their patients, and the complexities of criminal responsibility assessments, this book offers even more to those working within forensic and criminal justice contexts.
The reviewers report no competing interests.