Sophia Halmagyi ’23

“Having a murderous mind is not always the same thing as being a murderer or even having the intention of killing,” Dean A. Haycock said in his novel, Murderous Minds: Exploring the Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil, an astonishing read for human beings intrigued by the psychotic mind of a criminal. The novel, Murderous Minds: Exploring the Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evils, introduces the mind and brain of a criminal psychopath versus a psychopath.

The author, Dean A. Haycock, is a man with a neurobiology Ph.D. from Brown University that writes many books on mental illnesses, such as Tyrannical Minds: Psychological Profiling, Narcissism, and Dictatorship and The Everything Health Guide to Adult Bipolar Disorder: Reassuring Advice for Patients and Families. Through scientific and pathological knowledge, Dr. Haycock discusses murderous minds: questioning what defines a murderous mind, are people with deadly minds naturally immoral, evil, corrupt and are people with destructive minds all criminals?

To answer the many questions about murderous minds, primarily criminal psychopaths, Dr. Haycock utilizes several cases of dangerous minds within each of his chapters, and drives deep into the sea of the guilty’s reflection, how their brain works, and the prevailing question of why? Why did they do their wicked crime? One example of his cases is Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s crisis, a situation of two high school boys who planned to set off bombs in their high school and gun down all the survivors of the bombing, yet had to change their plan because of their bomb-making skills being “incompetent.” Dr. Haycock explains the case as if it just transpired and explains the boys’ thinking and connects their reasoning to their brain structure. For instance, he mentions how Eric Harris wrote in his journal that “[his] belief is that if [he] say[s] something, it goes [like]…[he] [is] the law, and if [someone] [doesn’t] like it, [they] die.”

Furthermore, Dr. Haycock distinguishes the brains of the criminals to a healthy person’s brain to highlight the differences in the chemical balance of thinking, believing, and following what’s right or wrong to do. Throughout the novel, Dr. Haycock strives to give a better perception to others about mental illnesses and their effects on people’s thoughts, who the people with murderous minds may be and the distinctions between similar mental illnesses and a healthy brain such as a psychopath, criminal psychopath, and a healthy chemically-balanced human brain.

In conclusion, Dr. Haycock’s novel is a magnificently well-written book about criminal minds within society. In my view, it is one of the best novels I have read about psychopaths in society and their minds. If you are a person fascinated by criminology, psychology, or mental illnesses in society, this is a fabulous work for you to read in your free time. But if you are not drawn to any of those topics, and are simply scanning for a great book to read, then Murderous Minds is excellent for that as well. The novel provides so much intel on the mindset of a person and society in general that you will learn so much about the people committing crimes and the people surrounding you in everyday life. 

Below are a few reviews about Haycock’s novel, Murderous Minds: Exploring the Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil: 

One review is by The Scientist Magazine, which states that “Haycock presents scientific evidence that supports his position, including data from fMRI studies that point to physiological differences between the brains of criminal psychopaths and those of non psychopaths. But the existence of a neurologically identifiable signature in the brains of psychopaths is merely the tip of Haycock’s iceberg. The real tangle involves the implications–social, legal, judicial, and scientific–of the potential that we could predict someone would become a murderer from his or her brain scan.” 

In a review for Murderous Minds, Publisher’s Weekly shares how “In this fascinating page-turner, neurobiologist Haycock tries to uncover the correlation between brain abnormalities and violent behavior, and whether one guarantees the other . . . Haycock concludes that the neurological profile of the criminal psychopath is consistent with key features of psychopathy: a lack of moral sense and a lack of empathy. In the end, though, he admits that criminal responsibility cannot be traced unequivocally to a neurological basis but that such research can certainly begin an important conversation in the legal world.” 

The author of The Psychopath Inside, James Fallon states that “Murderous Minds is a gem. I became completely immersed in it and lost myself in the world Haycock created at the nexus of science, story, history, complete with downright wondrous narrative yarns to boot.”