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Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  753 ratings  ·  140 reviews
From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes.

Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no "serial killers." There were only "monsters"--killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires,
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 14th 2018 by Berkley
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Valerity (Val)
This is a comprehensive history of serial killers by author Peter Vronsky which discusses killers going way back, and talks about the coining of the term ‘serial killer’ and its use. Lots of research went into the book and it’s very well written. Unfortunately, I had trouble with parts of it due to my sleep disorder, which caused me difficulty getting through it so I’ll likely go back and read it again at a later date when it’s not acting up as much. For those interested in the subject, you may ...more
Tiffany PSquared
In this statistic-heavy book, Peter Vronsky researches the presence of serial killers throughout all of human history - from the Stone Age to present day and even the possibility of their proliferation in the not-so-distant future.

Sons of Cain explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. The eras of supposed werewolf/vampire slayings and witch huntings are also discussed. Occurrences of serial murder in
Yigal Zur
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it is not a book for every one. it is really for those who want to go deep into understanding serial killers. it is amazing research with a lot of information. sometime maybe a bit too detailed but on the whole fascinating. Vronsky is straight forward writer with very logical views on the subject. i was quite surprised with his conclusion that serial killers are on decline so maybe there is still hope to human kind and kindness.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an interesting book, albeit a book that has some issues. The title indicates that we have a history of serial killers, which we do, sort of, if one doesn't mind forays into fields that seem hardly to be related. Mr Vronsky suggests that serial killers are not so much made as born; that we are all born with the instinct to kill people and screw their corpses but that most of us are essentially deprogrammed through "healthy familial upbringing and positive societal norms". He gives some ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Sons of Cain, author Vronsky (a historian who has authored other true crime books) presents a well-researched and very detailed if occasionally dry exploration of the serial killer phenomenon.

Split into three sections, the early chapters outline the psychology and the science aspect. In the second part Vronsky dives deeply into history, with a fair amount of page dedicated to the lesser-known European murderers in the 15th through 19th centuries who pre-date the infamous 'Jack the Ripper'
Dec 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
I hardly even know how to fully express my frustrations with this book. One problem with it structurally was that it couldn't decide if it was a sort of "unified theory of serial killers" or a catalog of them through history, which meant it veered back and forth between a broad scope look at serial killing as a phenomenon and accounts of specific singular serial killers. Perhaps a better writer could have tied those two things together, but Vronsky didn't manage it.

Secondly, there was a lot of
Trigger warnings: pretty much anything you can think of. Especially rape and murder, obviously.

This book was...not quite what I expected it to be. For starters, in my head it was a huge tome of a thing, but in reality it's just over 300 pages. I also didn't expect it to assume as much prior knowledge of serial killers during the 1960s and 1970s as it did. But I digress.

The chapters on serial killers between 1400 and 1800 were fascinating - there was a whole chapter talking about how witch
Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)
This book contained so much information! I was not expecting it to be so complex. The book is broken into 3 different sections; On the Origin of Species: The Evolution of Serial Killers, Serial Killer Chronicles: The Early Forensic History of Monsters and The New Age of Monsters: The Rise of the Modern Serial Killer. This book included information about serial killers that I have never even heard of and went back hundreds and hundreds of years. It is very well researched and the author talked ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alright, so you're talking to someone that loves history (the more facts, the better!) and it's a bonus that this is about serial killers. I loved that it also included serial killers that I hadn't heard of before and that we went so far back into history to study them. I'll warn you now, this one is a lot more technical than you would expect (which could translate into a more dry read for some). The amount of research that went into this book is amazing.

SONS OF CAIN focuses more on the serial
Diane Hernandez
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Sons of Cain is the story of real serial killers from the stone age to now.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I contains definitions, Earth’s history and man’s place in it, and psychological diseases that may be causing serial killers to be more frequent now. Part II and III are the meat of the book focusing on pre-Industrial society and from Jack the Ripper forward, respectively.

You can skip Part I and just look up anything for which you need additional information later. It’s written
Neelam Babul
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first read about serial killers in an article I came across and later on studied them in depth as part of my studies for my bachelor's degree in law.
This book is a comprehensive guide on the origin of serial killers, their history from the stone age to the current times as well as their evolution and transformation.
The writer also presents brief biographies of various serial killers throughout the ages.
A conclusive guide on understanding and widening your awareness on the subject.
Like most people who would find themselves interested in this book, I have an odd obsession with serial killers. I'm still upset over the closing of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment where their serial killer exhibit had some very fascinating artifacts like Bundy's car and Gacy's paintbox and some paintings, etc. So to satisfy my morbid curiosity, I turn to books.

I was lucky enough to win this one. The book is divided in three parts. The first section gets into the definition of a
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was very interesting. I liked that it examined the mind of a serial killer by examining the patterns of many and not just focusing on one. The author did get a bit long winded at times and bogged down in statistics but overall it was remarkably interesting.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway.

Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky, continues his studies in serial killers, marking his third work on this subject. This particularly book focuses on "sexual serial killers from the stone age to the present." Vronky does this by dividing the book into three sections. The first, details the evolution of the serial killer from the early days of humanity. Section II explores
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
i got a copy of this from berkley pub and goodreads on a giveaway, which is awesome awesome awesome! many thanks to all of the kind humans who make things like this possible. this is a surprisingly entertaining read for how history/sciency/technical it gets in some places. and while the way-back-history doesn't get too many pages, it still adds interesting context for, if nothing else, how these types of killers have been regarded/thought of by society centuries ago. and there are plenty of case ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC of this book thru the Goodreads Giveaway - it wasn't my usual genre of reading material, but, sounded intriguing from the description. While there were a few shudder inducing details, for the most part, it was a very well researched and written analysis of serial killings throughout history. I had never looked at the medieval witch-hunts or the atrocities of World War II as examples of serial killers gone amok, but, reading this book, that assessment isn't far off the mark. Mr. ...more
One of the better serial killer histories I’ve read, with details I’d never heard, references to books and media I now want to check out, and interesting new theories. I don’t necessarily agree with all of Vronsky’s ideas, but nothing here is the same old regurgitated stuff ripped from other books. I also appreciate that Vronsky managed not to moralize when discussing case histories, which few other true crime writers can do.

I’m pretty deeply active in the SK/true crime community, so it was a
Jaimie-lee Northey
Jan 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2019-to-read
TLDR - author uses veeerrrrry long sentences and a poorly supported theory as premise for book.

My first DNF of 2019, at 76 pages. I had real trouble with this book. It was difficult to read because the author writes in really long sentences that run to 6-7 or more lines. Even relatively simple sentences made my brain feel like it was suffocating while I read. Eg:
"In those days few imagined a world where the dad in Leave It to Beaver might be burying bodies in the basement or sodomizing the
Scarlett Sims
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
We really think of serial killers as being a more or less modern phenomenon, peaking in the 1970s and 80s, but here Vronsky goes back in time, showing us how although there wasn't a word for it and often not even a rational explanation for it, serial killers have existed and been documented throughout history.

It's maybe a bit more scholarly/dry than I was anticipating but if you like crime stuff and historical tidbits, I'd read it.
Mariana Ferreira
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly thorough portrayal of serial killers from the Stone Age to current date, with research that is honestly mind-blowing. With a very peculiar sense of humor, Vronsky is never disrespectful , always insightful and an absolute delight to read. I'll simply have to check out the author's other books.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant and readable historical/anthropological investigation into what creates serial killers. The author starts by saying that early homo sapiens were examples of serial killers, because killing was the primary way they defeated their enemies, and taking souvenirs of the creatures they killed was considered talismanic.

The human species eventually evolved out of this subhuman nature as the idea of peaceful coexistence began to strike humans as pretty much a better idea than
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-arc
Rating: 3.5 stars

I received a free e-ARC in exchange for a review.

This is an academic book, so it's a bit drier than your usual true crime book. While the entire book was really interesting, it really soars when the author hones in on one serial killer or reflects on his personal encounters with serials.

In the beginning half of the book, there were a lot of references to Peter Vronsky's previous books. Obviously he's building on previous research, so while it makes sense, it did get a bit
Oct 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
In Sons of Cain, Peter Vronsky has a serial killer hammer and everything looks like a nail. Indeed, pretty much every example of human violence throughout history is revealed in this book to actually be... serial killing! Gladiators? All serial killers! Combatants in warfare? Serial killers, all of them! Witch trials? Serial killing by the Catholic Church! (If you think it's implausible that a religious institution could qualify as a serial killer - congratulations, you are a better historian ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Once you get past the dryly didactic opening section, this becomes a very readable sociological study of serial killers. Where most English language books focus on exclusively British and American killers, many of the case histories Vronsky includes come from France, Spain, and Italy, so there was a lot of information that was new to me.

So why only 3 stars? Well, Vronsky's research is sloppy and his conclusions can be suspect. He credits the unsolved Vilisca ax murders and several other cases
Eda Sofia
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Just wrapping up this incredibly interesting historical account of serial killers. If you are also interested in the criminal mind and social criminal behaviour, this book is a jewel. Thanks, @Peter_Vronsky for such a thoroug, and comprehensive study.
Jill Crosby
May 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thorough research and a lot of introspection. Analysis of some of history’s most productive serial killers, overlaid onto cultural and societal frames. Interesting sections on the meaning of Fairy Tales, witch hunts, etc. The writer provides possible causes of today’s most prolific murderer psyches, but some of his hypotheses on past media influences contradict some of his hypotheses on current media influences. He also seems to have some kind of beef with the FBI and criticizes them several ...more
Anna Kaling
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Sons of Cain is an interesting variation on the normal serial killer genre. It looks at historical examples of serial killers, not just the usual cast of Bundy et al. Really interesting cases and I liked the writing style.

I wasn't convinced by the author's theories on why we had so many serial killers in the 1970s and 1980s, and it was a bit of a stretch for him to claim he'd looked at serial killing right from the Stone Age - for a start, there's no proof that we butchered the Neanderthals, and
April Forker
received Sons of Cain from NetGalley for an honest review - thank you for sending me this! I love anything involving true crime - books, movies, shows, podcasts, etc. so I was excited to win this book! This book had a TON of information in it. This would be a great book for anyone wanting to actually research serial killers and true crime as it is very fact heavy. My favorite part of the book was the part about the "modern" serial killer as those are the stories that I already had some knowledge ...more
Book explores our natural survival instinct and its contribution to the killer instinct of those who have confessed to multiple murders. The section on serial murder in historic times is perhaps the most interesting and gruesome part of this book. I think I was in shock over the birthdates of killers like Ramirez, Dahmer, Bundy and others. They were all baby-boomers. All had fathers damaged during the depression and WWII.
Ric Evans
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Vronsky goes back to the beginning and shows us how murder has always been a staple of human existence, from the Stone Age to present day. This is a chilling journey, all the more terrifying because it is real. From Neanderthal man and his fight for survival against his rival Homo Sapiens, through the superstitious era of werewolves, vampires, witch hunting, and serial murders of the Middle Ages and beyond, finally culminating with the Golden Age of Serial Killers in the late 20th Century, ...more
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PETER VRONSKY is an author, filmmaker, artist and historian. He is the author of a series of books on the history serial homicide: Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters and Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters. The third book in this series, Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers From the Stone Age to the Present is scheduled to be released in August 2018 by ...more
“Suddenly a million males, most of whom had been raised under the tenets of Western Judeo-Christian values but had rarely ventured beyond their hometowns, were catapulted thousands of miles overseas among strangers into a savagely primitive world of warfare stripped of the rules and inhibitions of civilization. It was a mini Stone Age war but with machine guns and flamethrowers, in which our soldiers were called upon to behave like our primitive ancestors in a reptilian state of killing for survival.” 2 likes
“For the media covering serial murder it is not the number of victims that counts anymore. But their celebrity status or credit rating. The trade off these days is one upscale SUV in the driveway for every 10 dead hookers in a dumpster.” 1 likes
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