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Book Review: Practice to Deceive

Book Review:

Practice to Deceive


Case File Overview

Whidbey Island, located in Puget Sound, is one of the most scenic and beautiful places to visit and live in the Pacific Northwest. Violent crimes rarely occur on the island, which can be reached only by ferry or private boat. Whidbey Island’s peaceful tranquility was shattered on December 26th, 2003. Russel Douglas was found dead in his yellow Geo Tracker from a single gunshot wound to his head. At first the police suspected suicide. But when no gun could be found at the crime scene, it soon became clear that Douglas had been murdered. The investigators embarked on a long, complex investigation trying to uncover the truth. Afters years of hard work, there was finally some resolution in the case.

Russel Douglas

Photo of murder victim Russel Douglas
Image source: Mirror Online


If you’re a true crime fan, odds are that you have read and enjoyed myriad Ann Rule books over the years. Since 1969, Rule authored 36 books and over 1,000 articles before she died in July 2015. She is often called the Queen of True Crime, and has sold over 50 million copies of her books.

Practice to Deceive is the first Rule book that I have read in a while, and it reminded me how much I appreciate her work. For instance, she includes a Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book, which works well on two levels. First, it helped me keep track of the multitude of characters in this complex case. Second, the use of “cast” and “characters” suggested that I was about to read a play or fictional story. For me, this signalled that the true crime story is factual but has twists and turns usually found in fiction. By design, Rule’s book is structured to carry you quickly through the story. She uses multiple short sections of 2-4 chapters. So before you know it, you’re more than halfway done. Even more, she uses many short paragraphs, some only one sentence long. This rapidly propels you from one idea to the next. When you start this book, be prepared to be swiftly swept away.

True crime and tea*: Two of my favourite things

*the Art of Tea’s dark chocolate peppermint tea is the best tea of all time

Photo of tea and Ann Rule's true crime book Practice to Deceive
Image source: Christine

Clearly I love Rule’s writing style, and reading one of her books after so long was like slipping into my pyjamas and fuzzy slippers and chatting with an old friend. However, as other reviewers have suggested, the crime covered in this book is not particularly unique or thrilling. And to make this case long enough to suit the regular length of one of her books, Rule includes minutia of the case that really don’t add to the story, along with character background information that has nothing to do with Douglas’ murder. It’s fascinating to follow the detectives’ journey to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice. But be prepared for a long, overly-detailed, road. As I mentioned above, though, Rule structures her book in such a way that the story swiftly moves along, perhaps in part to combat what can at times feel like information overload.

I won’t deceive myself into thinking that Practice to Deceive is for everyone, but if you’re already an Ann Rule fan, I suggest that you give it try. Let me know what you think.

Interested in true crime book reviews? Check out my review of Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century.













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