Slavenka Drakulic is a native of Croatia, a journalist and a writer. This is the third book she has written on the war in the Balkan States. While dealing with the subject of the war she became intrigued with the question of how people who had led unremarkable lives unblemished by crime or violence, could become torturers, rapists and murderers of their own countrymen - often people they had known their whole lives. This book is about the war and those people The book comprises a series of personal reflections interwoven with the stories of people who, for different reasons, became ‘monsters’; perpetrators of appalling crimes. Monsters like the fresh-faced and innocent-looking thirty year old Goran Jelisic who went on a killing spree of defenceless Moslem prisoners at a police station; or the multiple rapist Radomir Kovac who, having violated a twelve year-old victim, told her he had decided not to kill her because, having a daughter of her own age and had taken pity on her. Rape, killing torture, humiliation: the stories unfold each more unbelievable than the last; exercising a horrid fascination for the reader; snapshots of an alien and distant landscape populated by seeming psychopaths; a merciless world pitiless and without sanctuary for the victims. The book, however, is not without poignancy. For example the account of Drazen Erdemovic, a soldier, who on the fateful morning of 16th July 1995 was forced to participate in the killing of seven thousand Muslim men at Srebrenica in Bosnia in order to avoid being killed himself. The account of his fearful and reluctant involvement and his numb horror at finding himself participating in the killing is perhaps the most harrowing story in the book. (He was later indicted and arrested but released after his hearing when it became clear how very much of a victim he himself was.) Drakulic has nothing but scorn and contempt for the politicians and generals who she sees as the architects of the war. She singles out ex-president Slobadan Milosevic and his wife Mira for particular censure. She dissects their personal lives, laying bare the distortions of their respective personalities as well as carefully examining the ‘autistic’ relationship between them which was to have such devastating consequences for the people of former Yugoslavia. Her psychological analysis of these two people and the intertwining of their fate with that of Yugoslavia makes for fascinating reading. What distinguishes this book from others is the earnest way in the author tries to make sense of the senseless and help the reader grapple with the inconceivable. The writer makes an attempt to tackle the problem of the failure of ordinary human compassion in situations of extremity. In the chapter ‘Why we need monsters’, she recounts how in the course of interacting with the ‘monsters’ of the title of the chapter, she reluctantly came to believe that they were very ordinary people , no different perhaps to herself and her friends. And, if this was the case then she was faced with the uncomfortable possibility that given the right circumstances everyone might have the capacity to be a ‘monster’. Further atrocities recur because people refuse to think themselves capable of ‘evil’ and are therefore unprepared when situations arise which might lead them to act in inhumane ways. Well written, thoughtful and somewhat disturbing.