December 13, 2011

Book Review: POISONED LOVE by Caitlin Rother

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Kristin Rossum had everything going for her: Beauty, brains, youth, and the start of a brilliant career in toxicology. But the 24-year-old daughter of accomplished academics from Claremont, Calif., was torn between three relationships: one with her husband, who was found not breathing with red rose petals sprinkled over his body; one with her married boss; and one with crystal methamphetamine, an old friend with whom she had become reacquainted. In the true crime thriller Poisoned Love, Pulitzer-nominated investigative journalist Caitlin Rother tells the story behind the “American Beauty murder” case, a cautionary tale that illustrates how an obsession for passion, a fatal attraction to crystal meth and easy access to dangerous narcotics can devastate not just one life, but many others in the process. This updated edition explores the psychological aspects of this complex case, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the investigation and major players that the public never got from the mainstream media. The 496-page book reveals e-mails, diary entries, letters and other court evidence that lend insights into Rossum’s character, as well as 16 pages of new developments about her appeals, which raise forensic questions about her conviction.

My Review
Fans of the true crime genre will rejoice with another entry to add to their library, Poisoned Love by Caitlin Rother.  In the style of Ann Rule, a true crime favorite of mine, Ms. Rother delves deep into the background and psyche of not only the accused but the victims as well and provides painstaking detail of the crime, the trial and the aftermath.  

Reading Poisoned Love will make it clear to the reader that Ms. Rother spent an inordinate amount of time on her research and with admirable results.  Every person introduced in her work has a voice, not just "friend of the victim", "co-worker of the accused", etc.  This is perhaps the strongest point of Poisoned Love in my opinion - - rather than merely being "the victim", Greg de Villers is presented as a real human being, with thoughts, dreams and aspirations and you feel sadness and even grief at his life ending prematurely.  Ms. Rother also does a good job at presenting the de Villers family's sense of loss and helplessness as Greg's brother Jerome fights to prove his brother did not take his own life.  

The accused, Kristin Rossum, remained an enigma for me even after finishing the book.  She exemplified the brainy beauty who should have had it all but threw it all away for drugs, for an illicit affair, and/or for narcissism.  She was frightening to a degree in her cold natured indifference and the void that seemed to be present in  her makeup.  

While Ms. Rother's attention to detail is commendable, for some readers it may be a bit too much.  The book itself is hefty (coming in at just under 500 paperback pages) and there were a few sections where I felt it dragged a bit and portions could likely have been minimized or cut so as to keep the story moving fluidly.  

Even having watched a true crime program or two on this case and knowing the outcome, I was drawn into the book and learned many facts of the case I had not previously known.  In short, I thought Poisoned Love was extremely well written and researched and one of the better true crime books for those who want an in-depth look at the case rather than merely glorified violence. 

I would not hesitate to recommend Poisoned Love to a true crime buff or to any reader looking to explore the genre.  Caitlin Rother is certainly an author to watch out for and one that will be on my "must read" list.

Poisoned Love is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  


Paramedic Sean Jordan and his assistant, April Butler, had just finished a quick dinner at Rubio’s, a fish taco restaurant, when they got a call at 9:23 p.m.: young male down, not breathing and no pulse. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) had purchased the La Jolla Del Sol complex about a year earlier as off-campus housing, so the 911 call went first to the campus police dispatch center.
“My husband is not breathing,” Kristin Rossum told the dispatcher.
Jordan and Butler carried their gear up the stairs to the second-floor apartment, where they found Kristin standing in the living room, crying and talking to the 911 dispatcher on a cordless phone. She motioned them to the bedroom, where her husband, Greg de Villers, was lying on the floor, flat on his back. His slim, six-foot, 160-pound body was dressed in pajama bottoms and a T-shirt. His skin was pale, and his lips were blue around the edges. Red rose petals were scattered on the carpet around his upper torso, with a single stem and stamen next to him.
Jordan started setting up next to Greg’s left arm. Butler squeezed into position, setting aside an unframed wedding photo of the couple, which had been propped up against the base of the bureau, as if someone had positioned it just so.
Greg looked a little nervous in the photo. He smiled for the camera with a quiet contentment, all dressed up in his tuxedo and striped cravat, his dark brown hair slicked back and his blue eyes shining. Kristin looked radiant, her shiny blond locks pulled up under a white-flowered tiara, and a veil trailing down her back. She wore a string of pearls with her white dress, which had short lace sleeves that covered her shoulders, and she held a bouquet of pink and white flowers tied with bows of ribbon. They both seemed so very happy as Greg declared his supreme devotion to her in front of their friends and family.
In all the commotion, the wedding photo got moved to the top of the chest on Greg’s right side, next to a blue plastic cup of clear, odorless liquid that looked like water. And a yellow cup, also containing clear, odorless liquid, rested on a nightstand on the opposite side of the bed.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

With thanks to Pump Up Your Book! for including me on this virtual tour! 

To celebrate the release of Caitlin Rother’s new release,Poisoned Love, she is offering one signed copy of her of her book at Pump Up Your Book’s 1st Annual Holiday Extravaganza Facebook Party on December 16.  Plus, one copy of her next book, Naked Addiction! Click here for details!

Upcoming virtual tour stops for Poisoned Love:
Wednesday, December 14

Book reviewed at Mad Moose Mama
Thursday, December 15
Book reviewed at Colloquium
Friday,  December 16
Book reviewed at Bookspark


thewriterslife said...

Wow, thanks for the wonderful review today, Lori!

Caitlin Rother said...

Lori, I really appreciate your thoughtful and very kind review. I am so happy when a reader like you picks up on what I'm really trying to do -- give everyone (relevant) in the case a voice, especially the victim, as I give a detailed account of the case from all angles. Very well said. I'm so glad I'm on your "must read" list now. Thanks!
Caitlin Rother