This is the eleventh in Ann Rule’s Crime Files. Each of these true crime books contains more than one chronicle, generally with one governing one and other smaller stories – more like glimpses into these crimes.
This compilation is another winner for Rule. She proves once again that she writes not only in a manner that entertains but also with sensitivity to the victims of the crimes and their families. Details of the crimes are given in such a way as to take the reader to the epicenter of the destruction and senselessness while not allowing the crime to be sensationalized.
The major case in this book features neither a gruesome serial killer preying on young girls nor some big-time city crime figure, but rather the mysterious disappearance of Rolf Neslund, an 80-year-old ship’s pilot and resident of picturesque Lopez Island who seemingly had a perfectly normal life. His wife gives every appearance of adoring him and calls him by the affectionate nickname “The Captain.” A deeper look into his life shows that it is little wonder he disappeared for all practical purposes off the face of the earth. His disappearance was not considered suspicious at first, and Rule’s account of the long, drawn-out battle law enforcement fought to get justice for the man is telling and gut-wrenching.
The true crime genre is not so much concerened with the “who”, as in the fictional counterpart of whodunits, but rather why and how. It is a look into the minds and motivations of killers, from all walks of life.
Ann Rule does true crime especially well. She meticulously researches each case, finding as much information as any human could expect to find. She gains insights into the case through detailed interviews with detectives as well as those who knew the victim or perpetrator. She interviews perpetrators where possible and attends all trials, then proceeds to take all that factual information and turn it into a heart-wrenching, detailed, true-to-life account of a terrible crime and its consequences. Few crime writers can deliver the sucker punches of a truly “truth is stranger than fiction” genre while also educating the reader about safety and showing an objective yet sensitive view.
Rule tells the tale of the Captain well, bringing to life his wife of many years while allowing the reader see how easy it was for her to appear so normal to others. On the surface, theirs was a normal life and a happy marriage; dig deeper, and the truth emerges in all its painful glory.
It is with great interest I read about how difficult it was for the law enforcement agencies to bring this case to trial. Without such persistence and determination, the disappearance of The Captain may never have been solved, and a culprit would have been able to escape punishment.
There are of course no points for dialogue, development of character, or plot workings, but Rule breathes life into the people involved without making them seem too perfect, drawing you into their lives just as you would be drawn into the world of a fiction masterpiece. You may not always be comfortable, but life is like that.
The other stories are shorter but no less sinister. Some may find the shortness of the tales disappointing, in which case the cure is to read one of Rule’s full-length works where one story takes up the whole book.
Try not to be discouraged, though, as Rule tries to give space to every story she thinks the public should know about. Some of these tales will really surprise and shock you. Though there are not always answers to the difficult questions - such as “Why?” -each story illustrates the resilience of some people or the hard fight of lawmen or even gives cause to warn us.
The last story is not a murder story but so easily could have been – rather, it is a story of survival, the remarkable tale of a woman who is abducted, raped and threatened with murder but who manages to survive. It is a valuable lesson to all. After all, how many of us would know what to do if faced with such a situation? What would you do? Would you be able to keep your cool, watch your abductors for clues of how to behave and manage to make a break at just the right time? This story might possibly save a life, and it is also a heartfelt look into one woman’s amazing tale of survival.
This book is not for the fainthearted; it details the worst things people can do to each other. But it is important that we all, once in a while, realize what can happen to people, how it can somehow make them stronger, and how it can give us people to feel for, believe in or fight for.
Rule glorifies neither the crime nor the criminal. These books are about the good guys, the fabulous work done by those too-often underrated in our society, the police and prosecutors, and it is also a dedication to the victims – so they will be remembered.
This is an Ann Rule true-crime book at its best. No fan will want to miss out on this latest addition to the crime files. To those new to Rule and/or true crime, dive on in. Ann Rule is a former Seattle policewoman, former caseworker for the Washington State Department of Public Assistance, and former student intern at the Oregon State Training School for Girls. Over the past 30 years, she has published 20 books and 1400 articles, mostly on criminal cases. Ann is active in support groups for victims of violent crimes and their families, in the Y.W.C.A.'s program to help battered and abused women, and in Childhelp and Childhaven, support groups for children. For more information on Ann Rule and her book, visit