2.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
I don’t usually read true crime. I found this interesting, but deeply disturbing and a little too graphic (in terms of describing the rape and murder scenes). Any time there was dialogue, I kept wondering how the authors would know what the dialogue had been (except when things had been videotaped… though I understand you have to take a little creative license), and there were times when I found the descriptions distracting (i.e. Paul approached Karla like “a hungry raptor”); when there are already so many true, graphic, dramatic things such language felt… distracting. Still, it was interesting, and I believe it is well regarded within the genre and about this case in particular.
So… for those of you who don’t know, this book describes the lives and crimes of Paul Bernardo (rapist turned serial killer) and Karla Homolka (his wife and accomplice in the later rapes and murders).
The crimes described in this book are deeply disturbing — perhaps more so because they go into such graphic detail: they talk through the meals of the victims, the sex crimes they were forced to commit/videotape, the lies they told their victims (that they would be set free if they were compliant), the scripts the victims were forced to repeat (that he is a king, their master, that everyone would want to sleep with him). I’ll be honest, it was sometimes hard for me to separate out the writing (which I thought was just so-so) with the events: especially because it felt, at times, that the writing was overly flowery and descriptive considering the subject matter and the facts of the case; it wasn’t really a subject that needed (or benefited from) embellishments.
It is fairly thorough — it goes all the way back to the beginning of their lives, talks about what people thought of them as children, and clearly has interviews and information dating way, way back. But… and this is a big but… it is also quite slanted. There seems to be quite a bit of effort to talk about the abuse Karla suffered at the hands of Paul (that she was battered and bullied and thus compliant) when there has been quite a bit of evidence that she was not just complicit, but in some theories, the main instigator of some of these crimes. I obviously don’t know the whole story (and have now read more than I really wanted to on the subject, as my curiosity did not outlive these books), but I do feel like there probably should have been a more balanced approach in assigning guilt or at least in listing some of the competing theories…
Comparisons to Other Authors:
I have never read any other true crime novels (other than about this case, and that was for a report). I will say that I thought this was more thorough and well done than Nick Pron’s Lethal Marriage: The Unspeakable Crimes of Paul Bernando and Karla Homolka), but otherwise my experience is limited, and I’m unlikely to read more in this genre.