A Must Read: In Control | Book Review

In Control
Dangerous Relationships and How They End in Murder
by Jane Monckton Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review on Goodreads

Genre: Non-Fiction
Author: Jane Monckton Smith
Published: March 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 256 [paperback]

TW [ violence | domestic abuse | death | coercive control | stalking ]


First thoughts

This was, quite simply, harrowing. A must-read for every person out there to understand what ‘control’ means in a relationship. Monckton Smith has put together the most eye-opening research to help understand how relationships go south and how to recognise when it’s time to leave. It’s shocking to realise how easy this is to apply to a relationship you’ve had, or relationships of your friends. The work she has done is phenomenal.

“A woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every four days in the UK.”

What it’s about

In Control is about how abusive relationships result in murder, to sum it up simply. It’s a fantastic piece of non-fiction by Jane Monckton Smith who is a specialist in the field of homicides and has a plethora of experience behind her. This book analyses the eight steps she has identified as the pattern and lead-up to homicide in a controlling and abusive relationship.

“Historically, cultural, legal, religious and societal messages have made explicit to men in particular that control of their wife is a right…”

The book focuses on improving understanding of why victims behave in ways that can seem strange to the everyday person — why don’t they just leave? Why don’t they do something? It aims to eradicate this thinking but helping us understand what is going on and why the victims need to not only be heard, but believed, in order to get them the help they need to be truly free — and permanently safe — from their abusers.

“Control is devious and deceptive, and these things are often invisible.”

The book is written in a very matter of fact way, with a detatched tone. The author isn’t trying to express emotions and has made an excellent effort to remove any bias on her behalf. It’s calm, it’s collected and it presents all the details of her research in a simplistic manner that is both shocking and plain to understanding.

“…because controlling people, in the main, will want a rapid commitment, they may target people who they feel might give that.”

Why I read this

This is not the usual book I read. If you know me, I tend to stick close to fantasy and don’t dally in non-fiction all that much. But something about the blunt blurb of this and the relevancy of the topic really caught my eye. I was intrigued to understand and read more about this from a level-headed, non-dramatised perspective. I love learning about new things, and I learnt so many things from this book.

“More socially confident controlling people may keep family members close so that they can be monitored and even used to help control the victim.”

Why you should read this

For women especially, this book is really important. As you read the book, you’ll see that the most likely victims of domestic abuse and homicide are women (femicide). We all do our best to navigate the world as safely as possible, but there are some patterns of behaviour that seemingly defy logic, and an expert’s opinion (such as Monckton Smith’s) is a gold mine of information on how to understand these scenarios.

“Even where there may be mental illness, a history of control is relevant.”

This is a step-by-step guide to help you understand the eight different stages people pass through, men and women, in a controlling relationship. Monckton Smith uses examples the whole way through to demonstrate and back up her arguments. It’s a really harrowing experience to see the sheer number of examples for all types of scenarios in all types of relationships that she is able to procure.

“Coercive control is frequently driven by the fears of its perpetrators, and maintained by the fears of its victims.”

It is something I would have hoped would be difficult to find information on (as if to believe it wasn’t so common). But this is very common behaviour, and the abuse that is discussed in this book is seen world-wide. It is disappointing and scary to realise that there are endless examples of this controlling behaviour and abuse that can be drawn upon. It really opens your eyes to the magnitude of the problem.

“If we ever accept excessive jealousy and excuse or justify it, we just strengthen the control.”

Summary

This is unlike anything else I’ve ever read or watched on this topic. It is, by far, the most useful and insightful resource I’ve ever encountered for not only understanding these circumstances and relationships, but for arming the reader to avoid such an event themselves and to keep them safe. I genuinely feel better-informed and safer having read this book, because now I know what to look for and know that saying you’re ‘crazy’ is never the right answer.

“Knowledge is power.”

*Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review

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