This book by Trevor Bennett and Katy Holloway is the latest in the successful Crime and Justice series published by Open University Press/ McGraw-Hill. The series is well established as a key resource in universities teaching criminology or criminal justice, especially in the UK but increasingly also overseas. The aim from the outset has been to give undergraduates and graduates both a solid grounding in the relevant area and a taste to explore it further. Although aimed primarily at students new to the field, and written as far as possible in plain language, the books are not oversimplified. On the contrary, the authors set out to 'stretch' readers and to encourage them to approach criminological knowledge and theory in a critical and questioning frame of mind.
Bennett and Holloway's book focuses on the major debates surrounding the relationship between drugs (including alcohol) and crime. The book is notable for its careful use of research evidence; indeed, one of the authors' great skills is to bring order, sense and clarity to the results of the large amount of research material on this subject that has accumulated around the world. The text demonstrates that there are no straightforward answers to questions such as whether drug taking 'causes' crime or vice versa. One has first to define what one means by 'drugs', 'causes' and 'crime'. The taking of some types of substance (legal or illegal) appears to be statistically related to the commission of some types of offence, but the relationship may be mediated by all kinds of other personal, social, environmental and cultural factors. As they rightly emphasize, establishing statistical correlations is only part of the story: empirical evidence should be used to develop and test theoretical explanation. Bennett and Holloway lead the reader sure-footedly across this fascinating if sometimes tricky landscape, in what should become a key 'state-of-the-art' text for this field of study.
In addition to their analysis of the drugs–crime relationship, the authors provide valuable succinct overviews of current knowledge about levels and