The reigning true-crime queen dips into the darker side of love and mayhem in her latest microscopic take on homicide.
The day after Christmas 2003, Russ Douglas, a father of two who was separated from his hairdresser wife, Brenna, was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head in his car on Whidbey Island, Wash. But investigators couldn’t find the gun, which made suicide an unlikely conclusion. In addition, Douglas’ widow didn’t seem too concerned with her husband’s death. After digging around in Douglas’ past, police found many contradictions. Eventually, their investigation led to an informant who tied individuals into the case who weren’t even on police radar at the beginning. Rule (Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors, 2012, etc.) has written many successful true-crime books and has a following that is both devoted and legion. But in the past decade, the writer, who calls the Northwest U.S. home, has fished in her own waters so much that many of the quasi-local cases she covers are less than extraordinary. Although it received national publicity, the Whidbey case isn’t particularly compelling, and the investigation, while dogged, isn’t brilliant. While the crime’s particulars might be fascinating to Whidbey residents and friends of the participants, in Rule’s hands, they’re underwhelming and dull. The author includes every minute case detail, including false leads, and a large portion of the book is based on background information that has little to do with the actual homicide—including a detailed description of the death of one of the participants’ stepmothers, who died many years before the participant’s birth.
Rule’s die-hard fans may be enamored, but other true-crime fans won’t find much more than a yawn lurking between these pages.