Book Review: Knechtel, J. (Ed.). (2006). 10 Suspect. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 242

Date01 March 2008
AuthorDavid Canter
Published date01 March 2008
Subject MatterArticles
Knechtel, J. (Ed.). (2006). 10 Suspect. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press. pp. 242.
DOI: 10.1177/0734016808314546
This is an unusual book for the Criminal Justice Review to review. It consists of 23 very
varied contributions: photographs capturing a short story, illustrative ambiguous images,
one act of a play, a cartoon strip story, an interactive nested set of stories, essays on mis-
carriages of justice, the nature of human rights and the role of international law, experiences
of Iraq, suspects in crime fiction, and much more.
The central theme is that, post-9/11, we are all suspects now. This has the further implication
that anyone who is perceived to be a member of the “out group” is not to be trusted. The
book is thus remarkable in showing how suspicion, whether it falls on an individual or on
a nation, grows out of personal relationships or geo-political forces, or is derived from
databases or small gestures in daily life, fundamentally distorts perceptions and lays the
basis for even greater suspicion. This cycle is illustrated in many different ways revealing
how it leads to radicalization and polarization, feeding into antiliberal dogmatism, placing
significant power into fewer hands, as the authorities claim they are protecting us against
suspicious others.
There is such a rich range of material in this dense volume that it is difficult to draw out
any representative samples for detailed illustration, but one of the most telling and incisive
essays is by Simon Cole, a criminologist from the University of California at Irving. He
simply recounts how the “cold searching” of a database led to a US citizen Brandon
Mayfield becoming a suspect in the Madrid bombings. These suspicions were supported by
FBI fingerprint experts linking Mayfield’s print to a smudged print used in evidence. It was
only because the Spanish authorities would not accept this conclusion that Mayfield’s trial
was delayed enough for the actual culprit, an Algerian living in Spain, to be identified. The
psychological, social, and political processes that give rise to such a state of affairs are at
the core of many of the other contributions to this volume. But what Cole makes chillingly
clear is that if it had not been for the reluctance of the Spanish authorities, the international
and local political implications of Mayfield going to trial would have been catastrophic.
One of the recurrent themes of this volume is just how much information is available on
every person in a developed society. Hardly anyone is invisible anymore, declaring their
presence on the electronic radar of all the buzzing databases with which we must engage if
we are to survive in modern society. The banality of the recordings that the authorities make
when they are focused on citizens they consider suspicious emerges from George Gasyna’s
discussion of the secret surveillance film made by the Polish Ministry of Interior Affairs in
the 1960s and 1970s, but when everyone is a potential suspect and the recording can be
done at very little cost, then the archives of daily actions have the potential of turning the
smallest event into something of potentially irrelevant significance.
The implications of poorly founded or electronically derived suspicions are possibly
revealed more powerfully in the fictional essays in this volume than in the journalistic
accounts and in explorations of the significance of the suspect in crime fiction. In his wide-
ranging review of the suspect in crime fiction, Mark Kingwell, a philosopher at the
University of Toronto, makes the very significant point that the emergence of a suspect
Book Reviews 105

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT