You are here

The Will To Kill

The Will To Kill
Making Sense of Senseless Murder

Fifth Edition
Additional resources:

June 2018 | 384 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

“Written in an engaging manner that challenges critical thinking throughout, the text is very readable and balances providing facts grounded in research with case examples.”
—Minna Cirino, Shenandoah University

Now with SAGE Publishing, The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder explores extraordinary and seemingly inexplicable cases of homicide—not to sensationalize them—but to educate students about these crimes. Authored by renowned experts, the Fifth Edition places recent crimes in context by reviewing current homicide laws, introducing the latest theories that seek to explain murder, and presenting up-to-date statistical data that identify homicide patterns and trends. Students develop a foundational understanding of a variety of topics, for example, domestic and workplace homicide, cult and hate killings, murders committed by juveniles, and serial slayings. Students also examine various criminal justice responses to homicide, including the strategies and tactics employed to apprehend, prosecute, and punish killers. 

New to the Fifth Edition

  • Up-to-date research and data offers students the latest statistics on homicide patterns and trends in recent years. 
  • New illustrative cases cover various forms of homicide, focusing on crimes that drew significant interest from the public and policymakers alike and provide students with unique insights into violent behavior.   
  • Updated coverage of recent controversies, legislative changes, and Supreme Court decisions includes heightened concern over mass shootings, hate-motivated homicide and terrorism; new laws, shifting policies, and Supreme Court rulings pertaining to gun rights, juvenile offenders and the death penalty; and advances in surveillance technology, computer-aided investigation, and DNA forensic testing. 
  • Early introduction of theories helps students to understand the definition of homicide/homicide laws before developing a theoretical framework to explain violence. 

Instructors: Sign in at for access to curated content contributed by the text’s authors, including links to articles and opinion pieces written by the authors.

About the Authors
CHAPTER 1: The Lure and the Law of Homicide
Fascination with Murder  
Selling Evil  
Homicide Law  
First-Degree Murder  
Second-Degree Murder  
Defenses to Criminal Homicide  
Justifiable Homicides by Police and Citizens  
Excuses for Homicide and Diminished Capacity  
Homicide Law in Practice  
CHAPTER 2: The Killers and Their Victims
Race Differences  
Gender Differences  
Age Differences  
Differences by Location  
The Role of Firearms  
Changing Patterns in Homicide  
Chicken Little and the Ferguson Defect  
Breaking the Mold  
CHAPTER 3: Explaining the Will to Kill
The Devil Made Me do it  
Back to the Classics  
Using Science to Explain Violence  
Early Biological Explanations of Criminal Behavior  
Modern Biosocial Theory and Neurocriminology  
The Human Brain  
This Is Your Brain on Drugs  
Killer Instincts?  
The Future of Biological Explanations of Homicidal Behavior  
Psychological Explanations  
Sociopaths, Psychopaths, and Personality Disorders  
Freud and Psychoanalysis  
Evolutionary Psychology  
Personality Traits  
IQ and Crime  
The Social Sources of Murder  
Social Disorganization  
Strain, Frustration, and Murder  
Cultural Deviance  
Learning to Kill  
Self-Control, Social Control, and Murder  
Labeling Theory  
Integrated Theories  
A Word of Caution About Cause  
CHAPTER 4: Intimate and Family Murder
Killing for Profit and Practicality  
Obsession and Jealousy  
Power, Control, and Abuse  
Family Annihilation  
Murder for Love  
Motherhood by Proxy  
Prevention and Response  
CHAPTER 5: The Young and the Ruthless
An “Epidemic” of Youth Homicide  
Explaining the 1990s Decline  
Principles of Prevention  
Dial M for Media  
Juveniles in the Adult System  
Looking Ahead  
CHAPTER 6: Well-Schooled in Murder
The Risk of School Homicide  
Copycat Shootings  
Adult School Shooters  
Explaining School Massacres  
Blaming Parents  
Fear Factor  
Threatening Words and Warning Signs  
Responses to School Shootings  
Healthy and Safe Schools  
On to College  
CHAPTER 7: Serial Killers
The Many Forms of Serial Killing  
Deceiving Appearances  
Prevalence and Trends  
Characteristics of Serial Killers  
Victims of Serial Murder  
Killing Together  
Beyond U.S. Borders  
The Murdering Mind  
Explanations for Serial Murder  
Biological Factors  
Childhood Factors  
CHAPTER 8: Medical Murder and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
Counting Medical Murders  
Healthcare Murders Globally  
Motives and Types of Medical Murderers  
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy  
Administrative Facilitators and Failures  
Prevention and Intervention  
Looking Ahead  
CHAPTER 9: Rampage
Mass Murder  
Methodical and Selective  
The Role of Firearms  
Indiscriminate Massacres
Targeting a Category of Victims
Getting Even Through Murder  
Losses and Frustrations  
Profile of the Workplace Avenger  
Preventing Murders by Disgruntled Employees and Customers  
CHAPTER 10: Hate Homicides
Characteristics of Hate Homicide  
Types of Hate Homicide  
Thrill Hate Crimes  
Defensive Hate Crimes  
Retaliatory Hate Crimes  
Mission Hate Crimes  
Organized Hate Groups  
The Role of the Military  
Current State of Hate Crime Laws  
CHAPTER 11: Murderous Terror
Hate Homicide and Domestic Terrorism  
International Terrorism  
The Rise of the Islamic State (ISIS)  
Terrorism in Europe  
Homegrown Terrorism  
American Muslims and Domestic Terrorism  
Left-Wing vs. Right-Wing Terrorists  
Single-Issue Terrorism  
The Impact of Murderous Terror  
Reducing Murderous Terrorism  
CHAPTER 12: Cult Killings
Dangerous Cults  
The Appeal of Cults  
Charismatic Leaders and Their Followers  
Needs Fulfilled by Cults  
Normal People in Abnormal Situations  
Suicide or Homicide?  
CHAPTER 13: Catching Killers
Science of the Lambs  
Forensic Applications of DNA  
Technological Advances  
Forensic Error  
Clearance Rates  
Investigating Challenging Homicide Cases  
Behavioral Profiling  
Geographic Profiling  
Sightings and Visions  
Working a Homicide in the Media Spotlight  
CHAPTER 14: Getting Away with Murder, or Not
The Insanity Defense  
The Insanity Defense in Practice  
Revelations Under Hypnosis  
Capital Punishment  
The Deterrence Debate  
Race and the Death Penalty  
Other Issues Surrounding the Death Penalty  
Juvenile Injustice  
Epilogue: Epidemic Thinking and Overresponse


Instructor Resource Site

Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to curated content contributed by the text’s authors provide instructors with additional resources to use during their lectures.

The Will to Kill offers a good introduction to trends and types of murder in America. The text is affordable for students, and it is written in an engaging manner that is interesting for students to read. The text is solidly grounded in research, but written in a manner that is appealing to wider audience, really for any person curious to learn about homicide.”

Minna Cirino
Shenandoah University

The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder provides an overall well-rounded approach to the discussion of various types of homicide and the motivations behind them. Writing style is fluent and readable. This text uses numerous examples of killers which makes it both shocking and enjoyable for students to read.”

Emily Strohacker
University of Central Florida

“There are a number of texts available but I use The Will to Kill because of the breadth of subjects it covers and the positive feedback I have received from students…The breadth of topics covered is an important strength of the text. The use of interesting cases to illustrate points makes the text very enjoyable to read. The text includes a lot of the research on the topics in a way that still holds the readers interest.”

Clete Snell
University of Houston Downtown

The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder is a comprehensive text which describes different types of homicides within a limited frame. There are numerous aspects of homicide and it is difficult to compose all these various aspects within one book. The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder has successfully completed this difficult task.”

Dr. Fatematul Jannat
Delta State University

“I selected this book because of the reputation of the authors and because the book does a good job of breaking homicide into meaningful portions without becoming too repetitive.”

Edward L. Powers
University of Central Arkansas

“Very easy to read and comprehend.”

Alecia Schmidt
Missouri Valley College

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: The Lure and the Law of Homicide

Chapter 7: Serial Killers

Preview this book

For instructors

This book is not available as an inspection copy. For more information contact your local sales representative.

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9781506365961