Not for sensitive readers

The Killing Wind: A Chinese County’s Descent into Madness during the Cultural Revolution

It’s impossible to understate how brutal humans can be to one another. But we often prefer to overlook how quickly a murderous madness can overtake us under the right circumstances. Chinese journalist Tan Hencheng details one such moment that is less familiar to us: the Daoxian massacre during China’s Cultural Revolution. The movement took the lives of millions, but not with the insane rapidity and brutality of the executions in Daoxian county, where 4,000 “class enemies” were murdered in a two-month period—and where many of the surviving women, brutalized, were forced to marry the men who had murdered their husbands and children. The Killing Wind (Oxford University Press, $34.95) is a gruesome book and will not do for sensitive readers; even those who think they are familiar with genocide will find themselves needing a breather from time to time. But it is excellent forensic reporting and a necessary reminder that murder is always close to the human heart.