Inside the Criminal Mind

Understanding the dark side of human conduct

A Good, Instructive Read About Criminals

Recommending a psychological thriller

The following is a book review of Jean Hanff Korolitz's "You Should Have Known" (Grand Central, 2014):

Grace, a highly regarded therapist, writes a book advising women to heed early signs of trouble in their relationships or risk paying a huge price later.  Grace herself seems to have an ideal life as a mother, a successful professional, and wife married to Jonathan, a physician dedicated to treating children with cancer.  She has a smart, well-adjusted son who attends one of Manhattan’s elite private schools.  In fact, Grace’s life seems nearly perfect until she cannot get in touch with her husband, and he disappears.

It turns out that Grace did not take her own advice to heart when it came to sizing up Jonathan. A mother of one of his patients is murdered. This novel turns into a thriller as Grace’s life unravels when her “perfect” spouse becomes a murder suspect.

This book is worth reading as a gripping suspense story, and it is also instructive in that it shows how a criminal can succeed in masking who he is even to those who know him most intimately.  When a criminal (who appears to be anything but a criminal) does something that seems “out of character,” as Jonathan did, so much else starts to fall into place, namely the observations and gut instincts that have been pushed aside.

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People like Jonathan are given a pass when doubts about their character and behavior arise. Talented, accomplished, and charming, such individuals insinuate themselves into people’s lives and manage to pull the wool over the eyes of the very people who live and work with them every day, ostensibly knowing them better than anyone else.  The sad truth is that, until it is too late, their criminality goes unrecognized, and they get away with far more than anyone would ever imagine. They leave a trail of carnage behind them as more and more victims come to light.


Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.


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