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Levin takes us deep into the darkness of the minds of two young killers who, to all purposes, had it all.

Book Review: ‘Compulsion,’ A Historical Drama by Meyer Levin

22750385Nature or nurture, both arguments are often used in why there are those among us who have that bit of themselves that blocks the way they feel about killing, torture, abuse or pain against others. The question is difficult, for many times killers come from the best of families.

In Compulsion by Meyer Levin we follow the fictional story of true happenings from the 1920s. Depicting a story of an early example of an infamous crime, we are immersed in the fascination of the minds of two young men. Styled after the true life crime of Leopold and Loeb, we are taken back to a time in history where Psychology was still young in the field of criminology.

Judd Steiner and Artie Straus have it all; they come from solid families, and are very intelligent. Yet somehow they have committed an unspeakable act. It appears that these two young men feel no remorse.

As they are caught and the facts begin to come to life, they are in a fight for their very lives. For the prosecution is urging for hanging. Yet their attorneys are pushing for a mental defense. How could two such well known and smart young men do such a deed and then feel they could get away with it?

As we are led deeper into the psyche of the individuals the twists and turns keep you reeling. There is a strange current that keeps you wondering how such an action could have occurred and with such a lack of remorse.

Both sides of the law feel they are right. What is the real story and who is the main instigator? That is part of what they are trying to decipher.

Levin has given us an interesting look at the kidnapping and murder of a student, by two bright and rising stars of the community. One is charming and the other not well liked due to his superior attitude. As police begin putting together the clues, one thing becomes very clear. There is a strange lack of remorse. As Levin begins to reveal the story peeling away the layers, we find a great deal of confusion.

He takes you back to a period of time where psychology used in investigation was in its infancy and not everyone was buying in. His take on the situation takes you there, and you find yourself along with the investigators and lawyers trying to find the true happening and reason for it. Yet does it really matter in a crime like this?

If you enjoy mystery and historical happenings you will find this quite satisfying and unique. Levin takes us deep into the darkness of the minds of two young men who, to all purposes, had it all. This is a deep and interesting look at the reasoning behind their actions and you will find it both interesting and difficult to put down.

This would be a great book for a reading group or a book club.

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About Leslie Wright

Leslie Wright is an author and blogger in the Northwest.

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