Paying the Piper

Proof once again that a) the Kindle is my best purchase of 2008 and b) nothing makes a long flight go faster than a Xanax and a good book. Thirteen hour flights even in business class are flat out painful and if not for reliable Kathryn Casey, this one would have been even more painful because the movies on offer were unusually dreadful.

The true crime genre has many hacks, several reliable practitioners and a few greats. Kathryn Casey is becoming one of the great ones. Die, My Love by Kathryn Casey would be perfect if it weren't for the awful title. But that's the only bad thing I can say about this entertaining book. This is the story of one very odd woman, her nearly equally odd sister and the murder of her husband. How odd? Well, would you want a self-proclaimed "druid" and "bard" as your lawyer? If the answer is yes, then Piper Rountree is the lawyer for you.

Piper Rountree Jablin is batshit crazy on her best days and for some reason the men around her routinely find this charming. Her family, especially her sister Tina, coddle if not encourage Piper's permanent residence in La-La land. It's one thing for Piper to think she possesses magical powers, it's something else altogether for Tina to agree. Another friend praises Piper's "live for today" attitude, apparently unaware that Piper suffers from ADD. This book is full of those "are these people for real" moments so dear to the heart of true crime fans. Piper thinks nothing of urging a fellow lawyer to lie on an affidavit or designing the most unintentionally hilarious business cards ever.

When her husband finally has enough - after 20 years - and sues for divorce and joint custody, Piper takes her commitment to nutty behavior up several notches. Her sister Tina joins in on the hi-jinks. Tina Rountree is worth a book herself. Like Piper, she fancies herself a protector of women. Also like Piper, she barely has to wave her hand for half a dozen men to throw themselves at her feet. They're attractive women but the sheer volume of men willing to do their bidding made me wonder if there was something in the water in Houston. Most women are happy if their significant other takes out the garbage, these two have men all but hiding bodies for them.

It's an entertaining story on its own but Casey makes it better. She adds dimension to all the characters. She's done the sort of hands on reporting that is essential to making a true crime book more than a rehash of news reports. Casey writes in a clear, almost matter-of-fact manner that propels the book along. At one point Casey delivers one of the most chilling, devastating details (about Tina Rountree) I've read in a long, long time. She makes it all the more stunning by telling this detail straight out without adornment or overheated prose. That's the mark of a true master.

Kathryn Casey delivers on every level in this book. This is the second of her books I've read. After two excellent reads, she joins my short list of true crime authors whose work I'll pre-order as soon as I hear they have a new book coming out.

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