True-to-form Ann Rule on top of suspense

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By Pat Wellington

True crime maven Ann Rule digs into her files for this 2008 collection of under-publicized murders involving vulnerable women and sociopaths. Kate Jewell, an attractive thirty- something flight attendant, was not looking for Mr. Right but thought she stumbled on him serendipity. A vibrantly healthy woman, she was feeling unaccountably sluggish when she checked herself into Bayview Medical Group and met John Brandon, a naturopathic doctor.

Their common interest in nutrition and health bonded the two who were soon inseparable. But John’s initial charm soon began to fray. As Kate admitted to a friend, “When John is good he’s very good but when he’s bad ,it’s worse each time.”

Then there were the tiny slippages about his past and an overweening control that cut her off from family and friends and very nearly from her job at American Airlines. In time Kate passed from confusion at John’s altered personality to pure terror. Barely escaping with her life, she worried — with good reason — about the next woman John lured into his web.

“Written in Blood” is the only case that doesn’t fit the pattern of hapless women and dangerous men because the victims of brutal murder are newlyweds Bev and Bill Mauck. Their misfortune would be living next to a violent ex-con named Daniel Tavares who’d come to the state of Washington from the East to marry his prison pen-pal Jennifer.

Ironically, Mitt Romney would be drawn into these grisly murders by a parolee he’d never known. While still governor of Massachusetts, he’d appointed Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman. When Tavares came up for parole before Tuttman, he summoned up plenty of charm. That ,coupled with the fact that she knew little of his past, including the murder of his own mother with a kitchen knife, led to his release.

“Mitt Romney, with his rugged good looks, deep voice and charisma, in the summer of 2007 became the center of a national media firestorm, his reputation sullied — perhaps fatally — by a vicious punk he’d never heard of before.”

Perhaps the most chilling case in the book is “Not Safe at Home.”

It offers a corrective to the assumption that behind locked doors and windows we are safe in our own homes. Traia Carr found herself at a crossroads in her life when, after a 30-year marriage, she was divorced and on her own.

In her late 50’s, she had coped with change and was moving on. She lived in a quiet neighborhood, got along well with neighbors — even the noisy teenagers living next door — and had found a new, promising love in her life. But small incidents that in themselves did not seem significant would hurtle the unfortunate woman toward an inevitable tragedy.

What is impressive about this collection is its thriller-like pace and expertly controlled suspense. In addition, there is Rule’s humane concern about women, who for a variety of reasons, fail to act on their reliable intuition.

Pat Wellington is a retired English professor, freelance writer, and faculty member of On Top of the World’s Master the Possibilities who shares her passion for books with others.