The Anatomy of Evil

by Michael H. Stone M.D., Prometheus Books.

Evil is an oft-used word that is difficult to define and even harder to explain. In “The Anatomy of Evil,” psychiatrist Michael Stone—host of the Discovery Channel’s former series Most Evil—aims to help the reader understand evil by scientifically categorizing the acts of the world’s most violent criminals.

The defining feature of Dr. Stone’s work is his “Gradations of Evil Scale,” which places evil-doers on a scale of 1 to 22, ranging from justifiable homicide (category 1, no evil), all the way up to torture-murder (with torture as primary motive). So, for example, serial killer Ted Bundy receives a grade of 17, while psychopathic torturer-murderers Leonard Lake and David Parker Ray top out the scale at 22.

If nothing else, this absorbing book—which contains more than 200 vivid case descriptions of men and women who have committed murder, sexual assault and torture—may help answer the question: Which violent offenders are the worst of the worst?

Here’s how a handful of infamous criminals rate:
Susan Wright (killed her husband, with remorse) – Gradation #5.
Clara Harris (jealousy murderer) – Gradation #6. 
Charles Whitman (mass murderer) – Gradation #8. 
Neil Entwistle (a killer of people “in the way”; full-blown psychopathy) – Gradation #11.
Richard Speck (rageful psychopath, committed a multiple murder) – Gradation #13. 
George Hennard (multiple vicious acts, murder) – Gradation #16.
Gertrude Baniszewski (psychopathic torturer-murderer) – Gradation #22.