This is my first Ann Rule book, which is probably a somewhat scandalous confession for someone who considers herself a murderino. The truth is I hadn’t really read any true crime other than In Cold Blood before becoming a My Favorite Murder fan, I more just watched a lot of true crime shows and movies (The Betty Broderick story anyone!? Anyone? Fist bump? No? Okay.) I obviously would have preferred to start out with The Stranger Beside me, but that wasn’t available from my audiobook service, so instead I got this.
There was one aspect of this story I found off-putting, and it’s that Rule opens the story with a question: Is this the story of a woman who has suffered horrible abuse committing an act of desperate self defense, or is it a cold-blooded murder?
A compelling question to start the book with. I guess my issue is there never seems to be any evidence, at least not with the facts that Ann Rule presented, to support the former theory. Because every piece of evidence, every person interviewed, every anecdote supports the theory that Liysa Northon was batshit bananas and murdered her husband because she was tired of him. I suppose it’s actually more appropriate for Rule to play devil’s advocate at the start, but it also seems to do a disservice to the victim to start the book this way.
If what I said above gave you pause—if your brain is saying, ‘hey wait a minute—abusers can be insidious. They can be charming to the people they meet and a monster behind closed doors and make sure bruises never show!’ I am 100% on board with that. And I read this book expecting to find the red flags that are typical when an abused woman is doubted (and there definitely were some with regards to interviews with police). But this woman’s own diaries kind of sell her out. As does the evidence. And just…well, you’ll have to read it to draw your own conclusions.