“Brains Don’t Have Picture Windows”

Among true crime fans there are those who love Ann Rule and those who don’t. I’m proud to let my Ann-Rule-fan-flag fly. She’s written some truly great books (Small Sacrifices and Bitter Harvest, to name two) and some that are merely better than most in the genre. Rule does have a tendency to over praise the dead – the “beautiful wife and mother”, etc – but I’m willing to overlook that. I see it as part of Rule’s determination to keep the victim front and center, to avoid lavishing undeserved attention on the killer. Ann Rule wants to understand the forces that make a killer and how we as a society deal with those who commit the worst crimes.

Her “Crimes Files” series doesn’t allow for much space to deal with either question at any length nor to demonstrate her flair for original reporting. This is only my second book from the series and while I’m getting used to the limitations, I’m also beginning to appreciate these books for what they are. By telling a series of stories, Rule can paint a broader picture. Rule is as fascinated as ever with how normal, how plausible killers can be every other area of their lives. But I Trusted You is packed with failures of the criminal justice system. Case after case show sociopaths freed from prisoner to commit more heinous crimes. Most of the cases are from the 1970s – the land before DNA – and several are either unsolved or unresolved. Time moves on, Rule shows us, but the questions are never answered. Two (The Voyage of the Spellbound and Dark Forest) are truly haunting in their lack of answers.

If you’re an Ann Rule fan, this book will tide you over until her new book is released this fall. If you’re new to Rule, start with one of her classics (I’m partial to Small Sacrifices as a starting point) to see what a true crime master can do.

No comments: