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on 10 August 2017
Clear, straight to the point and very very interesting. Makes you think about the people you know...
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on 2 June 2017
Great book!
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on 14 May 2017
As a writer, I am constantly on the hunt for new reference works that I can leverage to inform my work. Like many of you, I'm fascinated by psychopathy. After reading fiction and nonfiction books and watching countless movies about serial killers and other crazies, I was astonished to learn that I knew almost nothing about psychopaths. This book has made the scales fall from my eyes.

Kevin Dutton does a fantastic job of covering the breadth of writings and experiments going on in this space. His style is fresh and funny, and most of the time you are unaware that you are actually learning something. I highly recommend that writers working in the thriller and horror genre add this book to their library. I for one will be referring to it for years to come.
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on 28 August 2015
Astonishingly weak. Found it rambling, tangental and extremely subjective with some very flaky inferences and conclusions. The neuroscience and psychology is there but is patchy, being poorly presented and explained for the lay reader with a tendency to go off track. For those of us with an academic interest and background in this area, the lack of rigour and irrational leaps to conclusions are worrying . In essence though it is just poorly written and structured. The exploration of Psychopathology should immensely engaging and yet this book makes it a messy ramble. Mr Dutton is just not a good popular science writer.
I would recommend 'The Psychopath Test' or 'The Gift of Fear' for readers interested in exploring some of the similar issues covered.
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on 17 May 2014
I have a great interest in neuroscience, specifically the psychology of the brain and the title of this book grabbed me from the beginning. First, though, this book is not about serial killers. Yes, there are a few mentioned throughout and the book ends with a small section on them but this book is about people who are not criminals. People who possess the same qualities as psychopaths and thus, can be labelled psychopaths, but are functional within society. It then goes on to discuss how these people operate in society and the professions they succeed at. While the book does mention serial killers, and saints and spies, (as in the title) it mostly concentrates on the business, government and medical fields; talking to and taking case examples from CEOs, stock market traders, MI5 agents, lawyers and surgeons. Dutton's writing style flows nicely and the book is not difficult to read but I would not call it an easy read as it is clinical in presentation and deals with statistics and test results. It is a book for the lay person but one who knows something about the topic to begin with. I found the information very interesting and would say it has broadened my knowledge of the subject. There is some discussion of cognitive behavioural therapy that I found enlightening and answered my questions on why a couple of my therapists/psychiatrists gave up in frustration trying to use it on me. LOL I've always been able to tell they're going that route and tell them no to bother using CBT on me. Btw, I'm not psychotic in any shape or form! A good read that I'll be keeping in my collection.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 April 2013
Ruthlessly cool under pressure, fearlessly risk-taking, charming, manipulative, lacking in empathy and focused - these are the characteristics of clinically insane psychopaths, but also of many CEOs, surgeons, soldiers and bomb disposal experts i.e. people who make a vital contribution to society.

Although I was keen to read more about this from a "renowned psychologist" (see back cover), I soon became frustrated with this book. It is partly the tendency to gallop off at a tangent, losing the thread in the process. The subjective nature of many observations, coming from a scientist, made me uneasy. "But there's evidence to suggest that, deep within the corridors of the brain, psychopathy and sainthood share secret neural office space."

Experiments are cited but they often seem chosen for their gimmicky appeal with confusing explanations of the research methods used. I could have done with a simple diagram of the various parts of the brain and an explanation of things like synapses and neurons in context!

I was also put off by the roller-coaster of Kevin Dutton's overblown prose style. "Streaming behind our fuel-injected, turbo-charged brains are ancient Darwinian vapour trails stretching all the way back to the brutal, blood-soaked killing fields of prehistory."

Too often, there is a breathless capital letter. At the start of every phrase. When he is getting carried away. To quote from his meeting with an American con man. "At close quarters. I distinctly remember our meeting in New Orleans. And how I felt at the time. Enthalled but creeped out ...... Despite the millionaire yachtsman vibe, I was under precious few illusions as to the kind of man I was dealing with. Here in all his glory was a psychopath. A predatory social chameleon. As the champagne flowed, and the slow southern twilight glinted off his Rolex, he would colonise your brain synapse by synapse without even breaking a sweat. And without you even knowing." (But surely you do know if you are only interviewing him because of your interest in psychopaths, plus most normally discerning people would be wary of his type anyway).

I am sure many readers will find this book entertaining, but I prefer the more systematic and objectively informative approach to the intriguing but painful and damaging topic of mental disorder, such as to be found in "Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature" by Richard Bentall.
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on 23 October 2015
Interesting, but as another reviewer pointed out, "The Entertainment Value of Psychopaths" would have been a more appropriate title for this book. Such a highly educated and intelligent author has clearly jumped on the gravy train here.
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on 4 December 2012
I enjoyed the first third of the book because it gave such an enlightening picture of what I used to know as "soft psychopaths": ruthless, cold-hearted, manipulative individuals who take no prisoners in getting their own way despite superficial charm. The second two-thirds are spoiled by a chummy, self-conscious style of writing which would have benefited from some ruthless copy-editing to tidy up arguments that sometimes lose their sense of direction. Overall, it was good to come across a recent and accessible book on psychopathy and personality, supported by an excellent bibliography that makes it easy to find literature beyond the text.
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on 24 March 2014
In terms of content and theme I'd rate The Wisdom of Psychopaths at 4, but the execution brings it down to a 3. As with many other reviews, it's the writing style which contributes to the book's major weaknesses and which gives the tome a fluctuating tone (although the concept of the psychopath seems remarkably flexible at times, too). I can see why the publishers would like this as academic books often don't jump out to general readers (as I know only too well!), but the gambit here compromises a serious and fascinating topic. Aside from the endless hyperbole (tectonic clouds?) well documented by other reviews, it is the jarring tonal shifts that bothered me the most. For instance, the chapter on Andy McNab is so matey and informal that it could easily grace the pages of FHM and comes across as name-dropping (my pal, the SAS celebrity writer) and it stands as a stark juxtaposition with the more (and much stronger) psychological research-based chapters and discussions. Indeed, the use of words such as 'barnet' and 'lairy' (and others beside) suggests that Dr. Dutton consulted 'The Guy Ritchie Book of Geezerisms' for this section. All very amusing and blokey, but ultimately unnecessary and distracting. Plus, in terms of his 'cool' examples, is a surgeon who is unemotional when performing his procedures displaying 'psychopathic' tendencies? Is this not down to his training as a specialist? Would you want a consultant who is a quivering emotional wreck as he makes the cuts and who becomes empathically bonded with every patient? That's not someone I'd want fixing up a heart bypass or performing some kind of frontal lobe incisions on me! But, the book is recommended as the thesis is fascinating and there is much interest to be had from this book once you traverse the tricky textual terminology.
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on 12 March 2015
The title brazenly suggests an outline of various "saints, spies, and serial killers" and the life lessons we may, strangely but fascinatingly enough, glean from their stories. Instead, the book reads mostly like a stream-of-consciousness diary entry about the author's rendezvous with hotshot academia connections. Terribly misleading title, questionable organization, repetitive, and ethically questionable in some of its condonations. I suggest picking up "The Psychopath Test" if you're looking for an insightful but easy read on psychopathy.
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