Crazy bitch is crazy.
Like Amelie in reverse (they even have the same haircut!), Dr. Amy Bishop sowed death and discord everywhere she went. But because she was a successful, Harvard-educated researcher and a mother of four, her severe emotional problems were usually politely ignored by colleagues, friends, and superiors (even when they became the brunt of her anger).
In 1986 she "accidentally" killed her teen brother by shooting him in the chest, then attempted to carjack a neighbor and a garage mechanic before being disarmed (reluctantly) by police. Incredibly, no charges were filed against her at the time.
In 1993, right after Bishop was dismissed from a research project, the head of the project received a potentially fatal letter bomb. She and her husband became the prime suspects, but there simply wasn't enough concrete evidence to lay charges.
Last year, Bishop attacked a young mother in a screaming rage at an IHOP for "stealing" the last booster chair. The charges were dismissed on the condition she stay out of trouble.
Then, most famously, Bishop murdered three of her colleagues and injured several others during a staff meeting at the University of Alabama last year. She was enraged that she had been denied tenure.
A Professor's Rage doesn't give us a great deal of insight into Bishop or her family dynamics, but McPhee does ably pinpoint flaws in the justice system that allowed a dangerously unbalanced woman to wreak havoc throughout her life.
It would be interesting to see a more psychological approach to the Bishop case. Why did her mother vouch for her in '86, when it was so painfully obvious that the death of her brother was no accident? How did she go through life without receiving any form of therapy? Why did colleagues tolerate her psychotic hissy fits, without once complaining about her behaviour? Was her desperation to gain tenure tied to guilt over her brother's death, as Bishop indicated in her unpublished novel? Most importantly, how can society help people who are blazingly intelligent yet profoundly disturbed, and prevent tragedies like these?
Hopefully, another author will pick up this bizarre story where McPhee left off.