Poor, dull Switzerland! The historic refuge of political conspirators and fleeing assassins across the years, it has also been, as Michael Newton points out in his sweeping new history of assassination, a constant target of abuse from the outlaws who found safety behind its borders. For all its hospitality, the land of cuckoo clocks offered little to the political killer: what they craved was not safety but a piece of the action.
At first it seems implausible that one could write a coherent history of assassinations – which, after all, are hardly confined to a particular political group, time, context or tradition. Newton introduces us to nihilists, anarchists, revolutionary republicans and nationalists, and the endless variations on the theme of individual political