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The Will To Kill

The Will To Kill
Making Sense of Senseless Murder

Fifth Edition

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

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