Emmy-winning journalist Velez-Mitchell profiles some sensational recent crimes, arguing that many were precipitated by shameful secrets also harbored by plenty of Americans who never resort to murder.
The author sets the tone for her comprehensive exposé in the first chapter, which tells the macabre stories of Imette St. Guillen and Teresa Halbach, two young women who were raped and barbarically slain. From there, she surveys and deconstructs a variety of high-profile crimes. Among the more compelling: the Hollywood prosecution of legendary music producer (and firearm aficionado) Phil Spector, accused of killing actress Lana Clarkson; the unfathomable murders committed by several Texas Christian mothers, most notably Andrea Yates, who drowned her five young children in the bathtub; the execution-style slayings of their wives and kids by police officer David Camm and porn-obsessed Neil Entwistle; the story of charming, cheating Scott Peterson, convicted of killing his pregnant wife Laci on Christmas Eve; the deadly show-biz dance of Robert Blake and Bonnie Lee Bakley; and the media-hyped statutory rape of teenage boys by their schoolteachers. Velez-Mitchell maintains an unflinchingly feminist viewpoint in her blunt observations on the immense impact on violent crimes of religion, family, sexual power plays, gender, privacy laws and forensic science. Her heavy-handed summaries almost always wind up finding men directly at the root of the crimes she examines. She culls interrogation transcripts and statements from psychologists, detectives, advocacy-group constituents and family members to buttress her personal conjectures. “Repression gives way to obsession that leads to crime,” she asserts, suggesting that secrets are time bombs waiting to explode and our own hidden lives may not be too far removed from those that gave rise to the atrocities she investigates.
An initially enlightening and informative feminist slant ultimately becomes a predictable, grating agenda.