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While definitely a step up from Rule's last few stand-alone books, PRACTICE TO DECEIVE is far from the comprehensive Ann Rule that I am used to --- even her shoddier stand-alone books like TOO LATE TO SAY GOODBYE and HEART FULL OF LIES are substantial and the narrative is backed by various interviews with myriad principals.
PRACTICE TO DECEIVE is six of one and half dozen of the other in that Rule takes a much more journalistic approach to her narrative that is reminiscent of her best works like SMALL SACRIFICES and GREEN RIVER RUNNING READ. That is a wonderful turn around from the last few books that, in my opinion, Rule was too forceful with in painting the principals who talked with her to be the most wonderful people ever and the murderer as the most villainous person who has ever lived. Rule is much more even-handed her and I truly had no idea who was responsible for what because the shades of gray were drawn so very well. The shades of gray may have more to do with how muddy the case tended to be than Rule's deft hands but I am happy with the book regardless.
However, this case may have not been the best case for Rule to cover as a stand-alone book. I think Rule wanted a current case and the last trial in this case just ended about 7-8 months ago, but the problem with such a current case is that there are still many questions floating around (specifically the motive) that there doesn't seem to be a real ending. I think this specific case would have made a much better start to her next crime files book, which brings me to my next point: the length. This is a case that covers ten years on its own and there's rich family history that goes back 50+ years and yet the book is very short compared to a typical Rule book. She's written shorter books in the last few years; there doesn't seem to be another comprehensive DEAD BY SUNSET coming along soon, but I had to double-check to make sure the audiobook I was listening to wasn't abridged because it ran at just a few minutes over 9 hours --- compare this to DEAD BY SUNSET that runs over 20 hours and GREEN RIVER RUNNING READ at 19 and some change. Most of her crime file novellas often run 9 hours or more. I feel cheated by the length and also that there could have been a lot more researched to fill in the gaping holes.
PRACTICE TO DECEIVE is well worth the read and I hope that it is a turning point in Rule's style but I also hope that her next book is covers the case she chooses with more breadth and depth.
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