Encyclopedia of Political Assassinations. By Nigel West. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 359 p. $95 (ISBN 978-1-5381-0238-1). E-book Available (978-1-5381-0239-8), call for pricing.

Encyclopedia of Political Assassinations is a work that sets out to document global political assassinations that have occurred during the last century and a half. It is a one-volume encyclopedia with alphabetically arranged entries that are well researched and written with an objective tone. It also features an abbreviation and glossary section, a chronology, and multiple appendices to assist the reader. The author is very thorough, and although many entries are brief, they make good use of the space by covering both the significance of the victim and the outcome for the assassin.

Political assassinations and espionage are an especially popular area of research currently. This volume is unique as the stated objective from the author was to comprehensively “identify and document assassination as it occurred during this and the previous century,” and “where the recent declassification of documents has made it possible, shed new light on old mysteries” (West, p. 4). The author examining and deconstructing the contents of the declassified documents and connecting the dots historically is invaluable for researchers.

This examination is also what sets this volume apart from previous publications that covered this topic. Assassinations and Executions: An Encyclopedia of Political Violence, 1900–2000, by Harris M. Lentz III, is a popular volume in many library collections and, prior to Encyclopedia of Political Assassinations, was one of the only encyclopedic resources on the topic. However, due to the nature of the volume, the entries in Assassinations and Executions are less substantial and do not offer the same level of detail and contextual information. The difference in the depth of coverage can be seen throughout the volumes, but an excellent example is the coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In both encyclopedias’ entries, the events leading up to and following the assassination are listed, but that is where the similarities end. Lentz’s entry does an excellent job relaying the facts and briefly mentions the major conspiracies surrounding the assassination, but he doesn’t delve any deeper as the objective of his publication was to “present a concise look at the many world leaders who met their end in a violent manner during the 20th century” (Lentz, p. xi). In contrast, West’s treatment of the same topic provides the reader with not only the essential facts but also a discussion on the possible motivations of key figures involved in the assassination and the investigation that followed. Documents that were released long after Lentz’s work was published greatly aided West’s analysis, and researchers and enthusiasts alike will consider this new information fascinating.

This resource provides readers with well-researched, informative entries. It is also different from previous volumes that cover the topic because the author had access to the recently released documents pertaining to assassinations that had a major impact historically. It is a relatively inexpensive volume, and I believe it would be a valuable addition to public or academic libraries as the topic has mass appeal and the treatment of the topic is exceptional.—Marissa Ellermann, Head of Circulation Services Librarian, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois


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