Sons of Cain by Peter Vronsky narrated by Mikael Naramore

Normally, when I’m reviewing an audiobook, I wait until the end to comment on the quality of the narration. I have to make an exception here. Mikael Naramore’s narration of Vronsky’s fantastic history of serial killing is perhaps the most perfect match-up I’ve ever witnessed in an audiobook. The most important element is that he so perfectly captures the wry, often sardonic humor of the author. I was disappointed to see that Naramore didn’t further narrate other titles from Vronsky, because there’s no chance in my mind of another narrator embracing and conveying the strange blend of casual discourse and in-depth history lesson to be found in all of Vronsky’s texts. I’ll surely give the other audiobooks a chance, as my significant other and I listen to these while we’re out adventuring, but I feel a sense of disenchantment in advance that is unfair to the other narrators who’ve worked on Vronsky’s books.
Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present is a mouthful of a title, to be sure, but it’s a fitting title for such a densely packed deep dive into the history of serial killers throughout recorded civilization.
Spending a period focusing on the development of the triune brain, as proposed by evolutionary neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean in the 1960s (which, while oversimplified based on our current knowledge, is still a rather useful tool for understanding the way our brains work and how they sometimes malfunction), Vronsky discusses the four Fs that defined the existence of early man (and still define the existence of most life as we know it). Feeding, Fucking, Fighting, and Fleeing are still the core behavioral motivators underlying our daily lives, but with trappings of civility and leisure tossed into the mix.
There’s some analysis of why and how homo sapien became the dominant hominid and the potential role of necrophobia in that success. There’s surely some strong argument in opposition to his theories and hypotheses regarding how and why early man survived while other competing branches of the same evolutionary tree did not, but none of them are any more likely to be valid or accurate. It’s all conjecture and educated guesswork when we’re talking about things like that.
From there, we move on to the meat of the book, detailing early records of “lycanthrope” lust murders from early history, evaluating these past instances through the lens of the present, and applying our current understanding to these things. It’s truly fascinating and well worth the time, reading or (in my case) listening to Vronsky’s meticulous considerations of mass murder cases from centuries ago.
Arguably, the most rewarding aspect of this book is the author’s discussion of Diabolus In Cultura, the combination of cultural factors and arrangements that contributed to the growing numbers of serial killers and the periods wherein we’ve experienced surges of what we would classify as modern serial killers. It’s never one thing, isolated from other elements, but rather a concatenation of sorts that produces a surge of individuals prone to that sort of behavior.
Fair warning, as the end of the book approaches, and Vronsky is discussing the “Golden Age of Serial Killers” here in America, spanning from the mid-1960s through the 1990s, there are some rather long lists involved. They can become more than a little tedious but are essential to capturing a full understanding of what he’s trying to convey. That was the one section of this book where I’d have preferred to be reading rather than listening to the narration.

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