I first met Carol Anne Davis many years ago at The Crime & Mystery Conference, St Hilda's, Oxford, and I have always been impressed by her vast knowledge of real-life crime and even more impressed by her powerful crime fiction.
This non-fiction study of violent criminals high-lights the serious problem that when people have power and position and wear the mask of respectability, they can escape detection for a very long time and commit an unbelievable number of barbarous acts.
This selection of true-crime studies outlines the cases of thirty-seven criminals who committed violent crimes – in most cases murder – and, at first, were shielded from suspicion by their social position and respectable jobs, which often allowed them to offend again. The chapters consist of a study of the perpetrators' childhoods, their lives and the circumstances that moulded their personalities. Many of these personalities were terrifyingly warped and ego-centric.
The perpetrators ranged through several killers with positions in law enforcement and education, there were also health workers, lawyers, a vet and an airline pilot, and a large number of people with positions in religious organisations. Indeed one of the most disturbing aspects of the book as a whole was the number of violent offenders who had religion – often in an extreme form – as part of their upbringing. The chapters often conclude with comments from psychologists and psychiatrists, analysing the nature of the crime and perpetrators, and these are fascinating.
Although the front cover includes the caption 'When good men and women turn criminal,' I did not feel that the majority of the perpetrators were 'good,' they merely had the position and reputation to camouflage their true natures. Because they were respectable people who could hide behind a mask of authority, religion and good deeds, those around them could not believe them capable of serious evil. Added to which, official agencies (such as the Social Services in the case of abusive foster mother Eunice Spry) are very wary of challenging the outwardly respectable and unwilling to offend people whom they regard as 'like themselves.'
Carol Anne Davis is an outstanding authority on true crime, and Masking Evil is a fascinating, although chilling, study of criminals who shelter (and are sheltered by those around them) behind a mask of respectability. A book that is well worth reading for those who are interested in true crime and the psychology behind violent actions, not to mention a good source of plots for crime writers. An authoritative and very interesting book.
Published by Summersdale Publishers