White Mercy presents a novel approach to the study of capital punishment in 20th-century South Africa. It focuses on official acts of mercy rather than on miscarriages of justice. Turrell bases his absorbing narrative on a thorough investigation of government statistics, court testimony, and judges' reports. He shows that racism and sexism profoundly influenced death-penalty cases but not in equal ways. Africans, whom white rulers considered the "weaker" race, and women, whom men called the "weaker" sex, entered a legal realm that both promoted preordained cultural difference and disproportionately granted clemency to females convicted of murder. What will perhaps surprise many readers is that a number of condemned white men went to the gallows because the court believed they exhibited the incorrigible instincts of the "weaker" race.