Think cops are your friends? If you’re a rape victim, think again.
Lueders, news editor of a weekly paper in Madison, Wisc., follows Patty (no last name given) from the night she was attacked, through the final, riveting trial of her rapist. The legally blind single mother woke up one night in her Madison duplex to feel the point of a knife against her cheek and hear the man in her bed whisper, “Don’t say anything, and no one will get hurt.” When the assailant finally left, she called the police, expecting help. Instead, Patty herself came under suspicion. Detective Tom Woodmansee, on a one-man crusade to punish women who made up sexual-assault charges, quickly decided she was lying. Claiming he needed another hair sample, he summoned Patty to the police station. “I know you made this up,” he said, refusing to let her leave until she confessed. Desperate to get away from Woodmansee, she recanted and then called a rape crisis center to report her forced confession. Patty was charged with obstruction, a misdemeanor that potentially carried a sentence of nine months in jail or a hefty fine. Eventually, DNA evidence helped vindicate her. Lueders was by no means a detached reporter of Patty’s travails; he championed her in the press and helped her connect to legal advocates. Nonetheless, he makes an effort to be evenhanded here; though he depicts Woodmansee as an unambiguous villain, he also acknowledges that sometimes women do falsify rape charges. The text contains a few embarrassingly amateurish moments, as when Lueders opens a discussion of trial strategy with a quotation from NYPD Blue, and too many chapters end with such breathless cliffhangers as, “It was an exercise that would prove helpful to Patty’s case but be devastating to Patty.” The well-developed cast of characters and vivid dialogue compensate for these gaffes.
An important, if imperfect, account that will captivate and outrage readers.