This might be a good book for mothers to let their innocent teenage or older daughters read before they go out in the wide world. Perhaps it would help them to avoid a man like the clever, charming and murderous Allen Blackthorne, the focus of Rule’s latest tour de force. No one writes better true crime than Ann Rule, and the reason for that is a combination of good writing, careful and thorough research, and an ability to make the reader so able to empathize with the victim that the reader’s stake in seeing the killer brought to justice is nearly as high as the victim’s family’s.
In this book, the victim unusually had a premonition of her death at the hands of her ex-husband, and begged her sister that if that were to happen to track down Ann Rule and ask her to write her story. The story may be already familiar to many readers as it was so grotesque – the woman, Sheila Bellush, was brutally murdered in front of her four toddlers in Florida. While her marriage to the abusive, manipulative, clever, charming and deadly Blackthorne had been over for almost nine years, he refused to give up his grudge and hatred of any attempt of Sheila’s to get the better of him – in his mind, this included paying child support for his two daughters. While Sheila supported herself and her daughters as a law clerk, Allen was a millionaire many times over, yet he still begrudged Sheila any kind of financial support. Even after Sheila remarried and had children with her second husband, Jamie Bellush, she and her husband lived in a constant state of fear.
The denouement, unfortunately inevitable, is followed up by Rule with an account of the meticulous and dedicated police work that went into uncovering the plot to kill Sheila, which eventually leads back to Allen Blackthorne. This is a sad, terrible tale of one family’s journey and incredible grief, but in her own way, Rule has memorialized Sheila in a significant way which may make your own daughter or someone else’s think twice about staying with an abusive man. The number of conspirators who knew of Allen’s plan and carried it our merely for money – who gave no thought to the actual end result, and said nothing to the police about what might happen to this innocent mother – is also shocking.
While many of our customers say true crime is too awful to read, I think it’s a mirror of our society, of the wrong ways men and women can interact, and a powerful message for those who will heed it. You won’t be able to put this book down – or to stop thinking about it.