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Mar 2015 by PCI College

Bite-Sized Book Review: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson is quirky, serious, frightening and informative says PCI College lecturer Donagh Ward, and above all, a compelling read.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson is a compelling read. As quirky as it is serious, as informative as it is frightening and as humourous as it is deadly serious, the subtitle of Ronson’s book is ‘A Journey Through The Madness Industry” and this precisely is what it is.

The book introduces the reader to the subject of psychopathy and to an intriguing cast of characters therein. There’s Tony, a petty criminal who faked mental illness in an attempt to escape a prison sentence - only to find himself detained indefinitely in the high-security Broadmoor psychiatric hospital and now can’t get out; Toto Constant, an exiled Haitian death squad founder; ruthless corporate executive Albert J. Dunlap; and the man who invented the psychopath test Dr. Bob Hare, who, by the end of the book the reader is left to question as to how highly Hare himself would score on his own psychopathy checklist.

Ronson’s own unique writing, reflective and questioning style challenges the reader to question what we thought we might have known about the ‘madness industry’. His journey into this complex world includes misguided psychiatry, plainly bonkers Scientology, unethical criminal forensic profiling and some of the dreadful consequences for the patients, devotees and suspected criminals of such activities.

It’s a well-worn cliché to say in a book review that “I couldn’t put it down”, and while that wasn’t literally the case when I read The Psychopath Test, I found it difficult to spend too much time away from it until completion. 

At times the book made me laugh out loud and at other times it came between me and my sleep with endless questions and reflection. For anyone with an interest in mental health matters, whether professionally or out of personal curiosity, The Psychopath Test is a must read, in my view.

Donagh Ward, MIACP (March 2015)
PCI College Lecturer

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