BITTER HARVEST: Arson and Murder in the Heartland by Ann Rule
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BITTER HARVEST: Arson and Murder in the Heartland

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A tour de force from America's best me-crime writer (Dead by Sunset, 1985, etc). Rule's fans will recognize shades of the pretty poisoner Pat Allanson in Dr. Debora Green, a Kansas woman with a lot of anger. She envies her husband, Mike Farrar, his youthfulness, his successful medical career, and his easy manner with women. Though the two have been married for 18 years and have three children, their relationship has always been rocky. Debora is cruel, vindictive, and has at various times been dependent on pills and alcohol. In 1995, with the family in quiet disorder, Mike and Debora plan to go to Peru. The trip is, in Mike's mind, their final act as a couple. While there Mike meets Celeste Walker, the beautiful wife of an unhappy doctor and an old friend of Debora's. After the trip, they begin an affair; Debora finds out, and Mike suddenly begins to suffer debilitating stomach problems, causing him to be frequently hospitalized. Mike eventually discovers several packets of castor beans in Debora's handbag. The bean is the source of ricin, a deadly poison that is later discovered in Mike's bloodstream. As he begins to recover, he moves out of the house and announces plans to divorce Debora. Only weeks later, a suspicious house fire occurs, the second to strike the family. This time it's fatal: The couple's son and younger daughter die; Debora and the middle daughter survive. An investigation leads back to the furious, defiant Debora, who confesses to both the poisoning and the arson after a carefully rendered and gripping preliminary hearing. She is now in a Kansas prison doing ""a hard forty."" Impossible to put down (though a little skimpy on psychiatric details), this is, thanks to the vivid, fascinating portrait of Debora and of the slow unraveling of her homicidal schemes, one of Rule's best.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 1998
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster