Thursday, 7 September 2017

CONDEMNED: An Overview of Exection Methods Throughout History by Darcia Helle @DarciaHelle

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I read about it on Maria Savva's blog post about new self-published releases.  I've read a novel by Darcia Helle that I liked very much; here is my review for Killing Instinct.

This is a novella length book, and quite a grisly read, as you can probably imagine.  It starts with methods of execution from early history, then moves on to the invention of the guillotine, the electric chair and the lethal injection.  Fascinating stuff.  Darcia Helle has quoted passages from others, and used information from the medical records of some more recent executions.

The book is very well put together and researched, and includes personal detail of both victims and the people who invented these instruments of death.  Because of its length it is obviously not an in-depth study, but Ms Helle puts the information over clearly and concisely, and I discovered much I didn't know, most of which made quite difficult reading; suffice to say that if you'd ever thought that lethal injection was a humane method, think again.

At the end, she discusses the executioners themselves.  While making clear that she is against the death penalty, it is not at all preachy.  What struck me most of all was that human beings are just as barbarous in the present day and in so-called civilised society as they were hundreds of years ago; they just have a better press.

Aside from being an interesting read, I think this book would be useful for research for any fiction writers needing such information for novels.


  1. Great review, Terry! I've just finished reading it, too. I almost didn't read it because it's such a dark subject, but my curiosity took over and of course I love Darcia's writing, so I decided to read it. I'm glad I did, because, as you say, it's quite educational. I learnt a lot of stuff too. I agree that it's quite a grisly read. Hard to believe people used to go and watch those public executions... just the thought of it makes me shudder! Thanks for the shoutout, as well x

    1. It's just so well put together, too. That matters so much in a non-fic book! I don't know if this a stupid comment, but isn't drowning supposed to be the most painless way to go? Or simply a gun to the head!

  2. A brilliant well balanced review, Terry. Must get this!Seem to like grisly at the moment.

    1. Definitely worth getting, Judith! Thanks for reading :)