He's a loser and he's not what he appears to be

John Lennon didn't have James Bergstrom in mind when he wrote "Loser" yet this is as close to a perfect theme song for the serial rapist, wife-beater and all-around-creepy guy on display in Kathryn Casey's The Evil Beside Her. The basic situation couldn't be any more unsettling: rape victim finds herself married to a serial rapist and can't get anyone to believe that he is the deviant the police are seeking. In lesser hands this would be a tale of exploitation and female helplessness ripe for a Lifetime movie adaptation.

Fortunately it is in the hands of True Crime great Kathryn Casey whose abilities as a story teller continue to impress me. She captures just the right rhythm for telling the story of a young woman who drifts into a marriage with a very odd young man, then stays with him as his behavior becomes increasingly bizarre, controlling and violent. Casey gives us such a sense of the ordinary days that it the battered and terrorized woman's ability to tell herself "that will never happen again" becomes comprehensible. Linda Bergstrom, the wife of serial rapist James, is slowly acclimated to the insane world of her husband until it seems if not normal than at least ordinary.

On the nature/nurture debate we have strong evidence for nature in the Bergstrom clan who all demonstrate moral tone-deafness. We also have yet more proof that while all whiny losers may not be serial rapists and/or murderers, all serial offenders are whiny losers. Based on this book and Jack Olsen's I: The Creation of Serial Killer I'm rethinking my stance on incarceration and capital punishment. Forget execution and supermax imprisonment, just put on these yo-yos in a group setting where their endless complaining about their own victimization can torture each other. These guys aren't relentless killing machines, they're non-stop kvetching machines.

Kathryn Casey is one of the bright lights in the True Crime genre, consistently turning out quality books informed by original research and reporting. Any fan of the genre should make it a point to read her books.

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