Moreover, although it is distressing to watch two little girls caught in the web of a psychopath, there isn’t much in the way of suspense here. It’s not until Costa takes the sisters to see his “secret garden” deep in the woods that they seem to be in any real danger. It’s a truly chilling scene: “I knew gardens, and this didn’t look like one,” Rodman remembers. She asks Costa what he has planted there. “That’s what we have to keep secret!” he tells her. She gets scared: “This was the first time an adventure with Tony was becoming less and less fun. In fact, I was done with the garden. I wanted to go home.”
When I finished, I wondered if Rodman still has nightmares. Probably, I decided. I don’t think you ever get over the fact that your childhood babysitter was a serial killer.
✹‘I looked for a case with a female who killed because I want to remind readers that women can be dangerous.’
In A TANGLED WEB (Citadel, illustrated, 304 pp., paper, $16.95), Leslie Rule — yes, the daughter of the true-crime writer Ann Rule — investigates the murder of a young woman named Cari Lea Farver who disappeared in Omaha back in 2012. Just as in Paula’s case, the police were slow to respond, probably because family and friends were still getting text and emails from Cari. The ones she sent her boyfriend, Dave, were downright threatening, and they escalated every time he began to date someone else. It got to the point where the police were searching for Cari not because they were afraid something had happened to her, but because they believed she was cyberstalking Dave. Of course, she wasn’t. As it became clear, another young woman, one who saw Farver as a romantic rival, sent those texts and posed as Farver on social media.
It’s an enormously complicated case, and although Rule unspools it with ease — she’s definitely her mother’s daughter — “A Tangled Web” is not without problems. There is too much repetition, too many unnecessary asides and, most annoying of all, a belaboring of the obvious for the reader. (Does anyone really need an explanation of what Facebook is at this point?) Still, kudos to Rule for focusing on a female sociopath in her first book. Last spring, when the book was first published, she gave an interview in which she said, “I looked for a case with a female who killed because I want to remind readers that women can be dangerous.”
Tina Jordan is the deputy editor of the Book Review.