"Incongruities have always existed between the devotions of the Christian laity and the official teachings of the Christian clergy. Michael Carroll argues in this book that Italian Catholics since the fifteenth century have found various means of reconciling—and even solemnizing—such discrepancies. This genial dialectic between official and popular belief is aptly summarized by the book's title, for Italian madonnas cannot only maim, but also kill, and their awesome power can command admiration and devotion. Carroll maintains that Italian Catholicism is unique in its approach to the divine through numerous splintered personalities, that is, in its penchant for creating localized devotions to the three 'metacults' of Christ, Mary, and the saints and in its ability to harmonize fear and hope. Carroll accomplishes two goals admirably: this is an excellent summary of the most recent literature on the subject (especially of studies in Italian); and it is also a superb compendium of specific religious practices and of scholarly approaches to them. Moreover, Carroll is a provocative writer who raises bold questions and incites the reader to distrust accepted theories. Even if one does not agree with all of Carroll's definitions and proposed solutions, one will have to grant that he grapples with some of the most vexing problems in the study of popular religion and that he does so confidently and with bravado."