Gretton’s is manifestly not a conventional history. The book unfolds as a series of “journeys” undertaken by the author and his partner across West Germany and Poland in an effort to understand the psychology of Adolf Eichmann and other Schreibtischtäter — “desk murderers” — who eliminated the innocent at the stroke of a pen. ... The book is powerfully influenced by the Italian Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi’s reflections on human cruelty, and by Claude Lanzmann’s nine-and-a-half-hour film Shoah. It makes significant demands on the reader’s time, patience and, one might add, wrists (the hardback is heavier than a housebrick). It is worth persevering, though, as the writing has the power at times to mesmerise. A second volume, due out in the “near future”, promises to continue the harrowing exploration; Gretton is a brave man to have stared so long and intently at the subject.