The Case of Mary Bell

by Gitta Sereny. McGraw-Hill, $7.95. In 1968 Mary Bell, aged eleven, was tried for murder by an English criminal court, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The court proceedings, described at length by Ms. Sereny, will strike most American readers as wearisomely irrelevant. The conditions that led to the murders, however, are not, nor are the events that followed the sentence, for both illustrate a familiar lack of means to identify or treat what are euphemistically labeled “disturbed children.” We would have sent Mary Bell to Juvenile Court, but would be as baffled as the English on where to send her afterwards.