March 19, 2011
Crime Magazine's Review of True-Crime Books
The first two books this time around share a common modus operandi: A young and much-loved son, whose parents had always given him everything, brings about the vicious murders of those very parents in the would-be comfort of their own suburban home. It's an MO so dark, so outrageous, so ironic, such a precise perversion of all that humanity holds sacred as to be almost Shakespearean. Taking the lives of those who gave you life: Murder is murder, but could any other kind of murder be crueler? The coldhearted calculations of Andrew Wamsley and David Legg led to four deaths, but destroyed many more lives than that.
by Anneli Rufus
The Good Son, by Stella Sands (St. Martin's, 2011). The luckiest among us have best friends. The super-luckiest have best friends forever, BFFs. Basking in the warmth of those bonds, we vow: I'd do anything for you. But would we? When smiling, bubbly Chelsea Richardson introduced herself to self-effacing Texas teen Susana Toledano, the latter "almost broke down crying," Sands tells us in this truly heartbreaking saga. "Here was this cool person coming up to her and saying hi." A friendship flowered — and when Chelsea wanted her boyfriend's parents dead, she had almost no trouble convincing Susana to become a key part of the plans that ended in two brutal murders.
Deadly Deceit, by Don Lasseter (Pinnacle, 2011). A woman wearing plaid shorts and a man wearing a plaid shirt are slain while sitting side by side on a plaid loveseat. It would almost be funny if it wasn't absolutely true — and if the engineer of these slayings wasn't the couple's own 25-year-old son, a spoiled, sex-addicted sociopath who removed his dead mother's diamond ring and promptly set off with his fifteen-year-old girlfriend on a Hawaiian cruise, financed with his parents' cash. Interviewed after his conviction, in jail, David Legg "smiled frequently and flashed friendly charm," exhibiting not a whit of remorse as he complained about the cheap jail soap. Every page is enough to trigger tears.
The Affair of the Veiled Murderess: An Antebellum Scandal and Mystery, by Jeanne Winston Adler (State University of New York Press, 2011). In 1853, Troy was a bustling mill town along New York's Hudson River. When a grocer and his female clerk, both of them Irish immigrants, died after drinking poisoned beer, suspicion fell on attractive 26-year-old Henrietta Robinson. The lover of a noted politician, Robinson was also rumored to be the estranged wife of a British nobleman, among other identities. Her trial was the cause célèbre of its day, largely because Robinson remained veiled throughout it. Sex and politics drive this saga, but its academic style makes the text rather slow going.
Serial Killers: Murder Without Mercy, by Nigel Blundell (Wharncliffe, 2011). In this easy-reading follow-up to his 2010 volume Serial Killers: Butchers and Cannibals, Blundell further examines the type of killers who intrigue him because they "show no compassion, [and] kill without a hint of regret, without penitence, without shame. ... Their lack of conscience is evident because they do so not once but over and over again." Chapters on too-famous figures such as Charles Manson and the Yorkshire Ripper are less rewarding than those on lesser-known killers such as British killer nurse Beverley Allitt and Germany's "Beast of the Black Forest," Heinrich Pommerencke.
Love Her to Death, by M. William Phelps (Pinnacle, 2011). In the heart of Pennsylvania's Amish country, Michael Roseboro was a well-known mortician — an ironic line of work, considering that Roseboro is now in prison for having strangled his wife, then positioning her body at the bottom of the family's backyard swimming pool in order to make her death look like an accident. Award-winning author Phelps goes into lustrous and painstaking detail, bringing all the players vividly to life — from the skinny detective faced with his first-ever murder case to the cute housewife with the Peter Pan haircut whose affair with Michael Roseboro sparked this chilling crime.