I actually bought this book 1/2 price through a buy one book, get one half off from Borders. The title "the sociopath next door" intriqued me. Really. I think I live next to one ... a girl, about fourteen years old, who has grown up without much parental intervention. She reminds me of the current crop of killer kids (except she hasn't killed anyone). These kids grow up without a conscience and shoot family members "to put them out of their misery." In her case when we talk to her parents about her vandalism around the neighborhood, the parents tell us that it is "none of our business." I am very careful around her and her parents (they live one door down from us).
I have read other books that described sociopath and psychopathic behavior, but this book chilled me more than anything I have read in the last few years. Stout describes a psychiatrist therapist in a psychiatric hospital, who for fourteen years treated patients. She took great delight in ruining patient treatment of other therapists. She wanted to be the best therapist in the hospital. In the end, this woman was treating a celebrity's wife. The celebrity was not satisfied with her treatment of his wife so he reasearched her "certificates" and schooling.
The therapist was not even qualified. Her certificates and schooling were bogus. Of course the hospital and Directors were embarrassed. Because the hospital administrators were afraid of the publicity, they let her go without charging her with fraud... and possibly negligience. What gives me the chills is that this woman could be in another state practicing psychiatry.
Stout claims that 1 in 25 ordinary Americans do NOT have a conscience. Some of these people are satisfied in spreading misery around them. Others are more flamboyant. In this book Stout gives some ways of checking if a coworker, family member, or familiar stranger are sociopaths. Since sociopaths look like ordinary people, then don't feel bad if you don't spot one before you deal with him or her. One of the best ways to defend your psyche from a sociopath is to leave them. Time and distance are some of the great healers.
There are some interesting suppositions in this book such as sociopaths were the perfect warriors in our distant past. Also that inadequate nuture in combination with nature causes sociopathic tendencies. One thing Stout was very clear about is that psychologists do not know how to kindle a conscience.
If I remember rightly Ted Bundy was a sociopath.