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on 16 September 2003
Video nasties, porn and heavy metal music don't make happy children turn to murder. Children Who Kill shows exactly what these youngsters survived before they fought back. Carol Ann Davis tells us everything from their parents ages and occupations to their school experiences. She interviewed a detective about one British serial killing case to provide pages of information I haven't been able to find anywhere else.
Did the reader who gave this book a one star review read the same book as me? The quotes simply showed that the author hadn't made her information up, that other criminologists share her awareness of what shapes these youthful killers. The TV show she refers to is an episode of Kilroy where a sexually abused girl spoke of wearing a wire to trap her abuser. And the women's magazine reference was to a parenting column.
My only criticism of the book is that after a while you know how the case is likely to end: that is, the children who were tortured went on to torture, those who were raped went on to rape and those who were beaten went on to beat. But I guess that isn't the author's problem. She is simply telling the harrowing truth.
Conventional readers may not like this book as it shines a spotlight on many of society's sacred cows and finds them wanting. It's also scathing about the way many adults treat their young.
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on 4 April 2003
Many true crime books seem like a thinly disguised excuse to trot out sensational details of gruesome murders. There will always be the sort of audience who used to gather around the public gallows but some readers may wish to move on from the sensationalist approach and read this cool, lucid account. Carol Anne Davis spares us no detail of a number of recent cases but has also tried to find solutions to the tragedy of children who kill. You would never realise from reading tabloid reports on these cases that these children have usually been abused by parents or carers. They have not been posessed by the devil or born evil: they have been made that way. Often subject to harsh discipline or a fanatical religious upbringing these children are hardly likely to benefit from the twenty year sentences that are often demanded. Often they are suffering from too much discipline rather than too little.While this book may be a lone voice amid the tabloid chorus for harsher and hasher retribution it is certainbly worth listening to. The information is presented in short easily digestible chunks without sacrificing any depth. Highly recommended.
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on 18 July 2007
I'm afraid it's necessary to correct the misleading impression left by the last reviewer. This is a well-researched book with an important message which never wallows in the worst humans can do - unlike some scissors and paste true crime books, generally written by journalists with one eye on the clock. It may not be particularly writerly but as Martin Amis has too often demonstrated, literary flourishes are the last thing one wants in a discussion of harrowing atrocities. Cool, clear brevity is exactly what's required here.
If one lives in the present rather than the past it may also seem natural to use American English on occasion. Many of the best crime writers are Americans, the best crime television is certainly American so I doubt whether anyone with a cosmopolitan outlook will be offended by the occasional phrase from our former colonies.
The sober sub-headings are not remotely reminiscent of the prurient howls of tabloid excess. As for the song titles, I would rather go on a walking holiday with Kelvin McKenzie, Richard Littlejohn and Garry Bushell than listen to punk or indie music but I found the titles' inclusion intriguing rather than irritating, a welcome innovation. Having mentioned those three boorish buffoons - exactly the sort of rabble rousers who believe in 'demon children', the family as cure for all known ills, sexual repression and corporal and capital punishment - it's a pity some liberal dictator can't force them to read this book.
I suppose some stuffed shirt would demand I declare an interest as I'm quoted briefly towards the end of the book. Don't let that put you off, Carol Anne Davis studied criminology before becoming one of the few writers who looks into the deepest darkness. A difficult childhood has given her the empathy to understand those less fortunate than herself and perhaps instilled the work ethic that produces so many passionate works
which repay careful reading. If you're interested in this subject you need this book.
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on 16 March 2003
This book opens with the author telling of her childhood friendship with a boy who stabbed a girl, and that got me hooked. You wouldn't believe how young some of these killers are. There are ten year old sexual assaulters and eleven year old stranglers and twelve year old torturers. By their early teens some of them have moved on to rape. The older teens often killed more people, eg battering their parents to death then wiping out kids at their school. Although disturbing, I found this a very readable book which made me think differently about why children kill.
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on 3 April 2003
This book opens with the author telling of her childhood friendship with a boy who stabbed a girl. He was twelve but some of these killers are even younger than that. There are ten year old sexual assaulters and eleven year old stranglers and twelve year old torturers. By their early teens some of them have moved on to rape. The older teens often killed more people, Eg battering their parents to death then wiping out kids at their school. Although the cruelty was unsettling, I found these profiles made me think differently about why children kill.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 September 2014
I hate to have to say this considering the horrible subject, but this is a very readable book from Carol Ann Davis, who is known for profiling criminals in her many publications, and I have to admit, I disliked her 'Women Who Kill' book, where she made some sweeping assumptions. I gave it a two star review some years ago, but this, her second book in the series, is considerably better and much more insightful.

That's not to say that it's not without fault, it is. I can't help but feel that she has more compassion for the criminals than the victims themselves. In fact, she often portrays the killers as the victims, putting their actions down to their circumstances and upbringing. I wish Ms. Davis would break the habit of offering her own biasness, and just stick to the facts.

'Children Who Kill' tells the stories of 13 young people who have committed the unspeakable crime of murder. The profiles are very well put together, beginning with the early lives of these people, building up to the actual killings themselves, and ending out with their punishments. I was only familiar with the James Bulger case (a crime so despicable that it brought tears to my eyes) of 1993, and eleven year old Mary Bell, who murdered two small boys in Newcastle 1968, so most of the people here were new to me. Davis has done her homework very well, and has dug deep into the history of true crime.

As well as these case studies, there are separate chapters which detail other topics like children who have murdered in pairs. Davis begins the book with a personal story about a childhood friend who attempted to murder another child, and she goes on to interview many experts who offer a very interesting insight into why children do these terrible things. I always applaud authors who conduct fresh research into these matters, which are often sensationalised in the tabloids, and Carol Anne Davis has done plenty in 'Children Who Kill'. It's a horrible subject, but this really is a fascinating and thought-provoking book. A four star read, but still with it's negative points.
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on 17 February 2011
After reading this book my attitude towards child killers changed. The book doesn't go into graphic detail of their crimes but just gives an overview. It's surprising the simililarities in the backgrounds of the children accused of these crimes. A good read.
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on 10 May 2014
The research on the profiles of the children were ok. But when I read it, it felt like reading a mediocre essay. There was so much repetition. And everything was one-sided. I felt like I was being forced to feel sympathy for these children.
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VINE VOICEon 21 October 2015
This was a fascinating read. Depending on where you live or what you read you'll have heard/read of at least a couple of the children mentioned in the book. As the book says, "the children who killed were mostly children who'd been almost killed themselves by adults". Thirteen murderers with the youngest being ten. Why do they do it. I'm sure the book will answer the question for you, although I wouldn't say that it's "not for the faint-hearted". I think this depends on your outlook on life.

Three-quarters of the book are profiles of children who kill and the remainder is a classification according to general type. There are two other books along the same lines - Women Who Kill and Couples who Kill.
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2010
A fascinating background into a variety of high profile cases where children have resorted to murder; from 12 year old Jesse Pomeroy in America in the late nineteenth century to the 10 year olds who killed Jamie Bulger in Liverpool in 1993. Many people just dismiss this type of crime as 'evil' and understandably find it hard to come to terms with children who go so far as to kill. However Davis manages to write a factual account of events and leaves judgement to the reader. As well as case studies she includes some very interesting statistics. Food for thought.
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