"OPEN SECRETS: A True Story of Love, Jealousy and Murder" by Carlton Stowers

"OPEN SECRETS: A True Story of Love, Jealousy and Murder"

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An intricate account of a brutal 1983 murder and the ten-year pursuit of the killer, and the jealous woman who put the price on the victim's head. Edgar Award winner Stowers (Innocence Lost, 1990, etc.) has re-created the history of a murder-for-hire in the prosperous Dallas suburbs. Initially baffled by the killing of Rozanne Gailiunas (which occurred in her bedroom, with her four-year-old son in the adjacent room), local police were unable to find enough evidence to indict either of the two most likely suspects: Gailiunas's estranged husband and her lover, Larry Aylor. The case remained dormant for two years until Aylor himself narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. The focus of the inquiry settled on Joy Aylor, Larry's wealthy and beautiful wife; and Detective Morris McGowan's painstaking efforts to bring her -- and the killer she hired -- to justice become the centerpiece of the book. The reader is introduced to Joy's deranged sister, whose sinister husband becomes a suspect; the sleazy petty criminals who were accused of the murder; and the drug-dealing lawyer who fell for Joy while knowing she was guilty. The cast is bewilderingly large, the digressions are numerous, and the action moves to Canada and Europe as Joy jumps bail and flees with a quarter of a million dollars. The story never really becomes a page-turner, however, as the tedium of real-life police work gets in the way of good storytelling. Potentially interesting personalities are shuffled in and out of the pages before they can develop. Fundamental questions about Joy Aylor's motives and character go unanswered, and McGowan never emerges as the compelling hero that this sort of narrative demands. Stowers succeeds at describing the breadth of an incredibly tangled murder mystery but seldom manages to find the depth.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Pocket Books/Paramount