"Neither the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999, in Colorado, nor the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, in Connecticut, can properly be called the deadliest school massacre in U.S. history. Nor can any other similar atrocity in recent memory. That dismal distinction, as Harold Schechter notes in “Maniac,” a concise, harrowing work of social history, goes to the May 1927 disaster in Bath, Mich., in which 45 people (38 of them children) were killed in the dynamiting of a school building and the detonation of a car bomb.
Mr. Schechter, a veteran chronicler of notorious crimes and criminals, introduces us to the villain behind these horrific deeds: Andrew P. Kehoe, a sadistic farmer and school-board member with a list of perceived grievances as long as his adult life. His main complaints came to center on Emory Huyck, superintendent of the Bath Consolidated School, a new edifice designed to meet the latest standards in education. Huyck, an ex-military man possessing “absolute self-assurance and comfort with exercising authority,” as Mr. Schechter puts it, proved anathema to Kehoe."