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A Descent Into Hell

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3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  549 ratings  ·  54 reviews

Bright, attractive, and both from good families, University of Texas college student Colton Pitonyak and vibrant redhead Jennifer Cave had the world at their beckoning. Cave, an ex-cheerleader, had just landed an exciting new job, while a big-money scholarship to UT's prestigious business school lured Pitonyak to Austin. Yet the former altar boy had a dark, unpredictable s

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Kindle Edition, 388 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published June 24th 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,142)
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Laura
The things wrong with this book:

1. The title. I mean, A Descent into Hell? Really? It sounds like a title that the Lifetime TV movie people rejected as too trite. At least Baby Monitor: The Sound of Fear and Ski Lift to Death (hey, look them up if you don't believe me) had some character.

2. The subtitle. "An Altar Boy" and "a Cheerleader"? Need I say more?

3. The pacing. This is a story about a murder, people. Let's at least bring the pacing up to the level of an episode of He-Man and the Masters
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 11, 2012 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: True-Crime Bookclub
Colton’s girlfriend Laura Ashley Hall was a real piece of work! Written with depth & compassion, this is the Ist book by Kathryn Casey I've read; I'm going to look for more from this author.
Stephanie
I learned that I am a sucker for true crime books set in Texas...this one kept my interest!
Theresa Perfetto
Well written. I think Casey is replacing Ann Rule for my true crime.
Diskoteka 3D
First of all, I must say that I think that murder case of Jennifer Cave does deserve a book. All the elements for a gripping narrative are present in this case. The problem I have with this book though is that author's approach is, in my opinion, wrong and here is why:

1. Title of the book is overselling it. While every murder is shocking in it's own way and every family involved deeply shaken, regular non-fiction readers will find the case quite ordinary. However, while the narrative of the murd
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P J Crawford
Expertly written; gripping tale of a senseless murder and cruel dismemberment at the University of Texas in Austin

Colton Pitonyak is a brilliant honor student and popular athlete educated in private parochial schools in Arkansas who earned a scholarship to an elite business school at the University of Texas. Once there Colton completely derails and descends into dangerous drug addiction, severe alcoholism and full-on illegal drug dealing. Spiraling out-of-control, narcissistic, drugged out of hi
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Lynda Kelly
This is the fourth book I've bought now by this author and for me the best by miles. The others have had mistakes in which lost them stars for me but I only spotted one in this book right at the end almost where she mentions people leaving court including Laura where I'm sure she meant Lauren !! Also, she for some reason always wrote website as Web site....
It was also the saddest one of hers I'd read-it was a lot more personal than her others I'd seen. You really got to know Jennifer and like he
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Jen Timmerman
this book was chilling!!!! it is unimaginable at times to comprehend the horror that this guy did to his victim.
Sarah
This book was really hard to read in parts but I thought was very well written. Obviousley the hard parts to read were how Colton killed and dismembered Jennifer's body and also the devastation felt by Jennifer's family and friends. Yet the author gave a very fair description of Coltons life. If the events in this book don't make people realise the downwards spiral your life can take from taking drugs I don't know what else will. Such a tragic loss and any parents worst nightmare from both point ...more
Christine
Review: I lived in Austin right before this tragedy happened so I thought it would be an interesting read. First off, the title of this true crime novel is misleading. Jennifer Cave was a cheerleader many years before the murder happened and Colton Pitonyak was several years removed from his days as an altar boy. The title should reference something about the dangers of drugs.


Cave, a pretty redhead, grew up in Texas and became a party girl in high school. She moved to San Marcos and later Austi
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Stephanie (StephTheBookworm)
I enjoy a good true crime book from time to time. As far as true crime books go, this was one was very well written and followed the story the whole way through. Some true crime writers are very over the top and try to dramatize the story to make it sound like a novel… I don’t think crimes should be dramatized or glamorized. They need to be told just as they are and how they happened, and this book did a nice job of doing that. It was very realistic and honest. I was also happy to see that justi ...more
Nancy McGreal
Three and a half stars. I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped. I read around two or three true crime books a year and usually eat them up. The first part was great, but the middle got bogged down with too many unnecessary details and it bored me. It lacked suspense and was too linear. So I ended up skimming a little - which I hate to do as I feel I'll miss an important detail, however, there was no way I could get through the second hundred pages reading every word. The last third of the ...more
Amy
well written, well researched true crime book. wished that both perpetrators or the families of the perpetrators had contributed to the creation of this manuscript in some way, but still well done. there was also a bit of foreshadowing in the book which pointed out minute bits of evidence and indicated that at some point they might play a much larger role (the purse with Hall's phone number in it), yet the author failed to bring these bits of evidence back into the story to explain why they were ...more
jim colbert
Stunning

I thought Ann Rule was the queen of true crime books, but Kathryn Casey is a queen in her own right. riveting story, so many facts, so many emotions, written in a easy to read and well researched way. thoroughly was mesmerized by this story and how written it was. a must read for any true crime fanatic.
Gillian Vance
I had the honor of narrating the audiobook version.

It sounds wrong to say that I enjoyed the production of this audiobook. The story is far too disturbing. At the same time, I am pleased to be able to share this true story with a wider audience. Kathryn Casey does a great job of researching all the 'characters' in her true crime books, and providing them with a history and context in which the public events of their lives play out.

In my voiceover work, I've narrated ten books. A year after its
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John Bailo
A riveting fast read about good children gone wild (and murderous). This books tells many stories around the murder and dismemberment of Jennifer Cave. Each persons story in truth could have been a book unto itself. Were it not for the gruesome end, and the pain inflicted on the parents and family of Ms. Cave, one could write a true to life tv series about the players.

My one criticism, and here I intend no disrespect to the parents, is that the author moralizes a bit in a world where rich teenag
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Fred
I rate this book in the same vein as Helter Skelter; hard and scary to read, but can't put it down. Being familiar with the story, I kept reading it hoping that it would have a different outcome. It is a story about every parents nightmare; their child getting caught up in a web of evil. Kathryn Casey captures the sense of helplessness and loss three families go through as 3 kids literally descend into hell. Sometimes true crime stories are much more horrific than any fictional story. This story ...more
Purplekitty58
Chilling , brilliantly written

the story is horrifying , it stirs up your mind in many ways. the writing is excellent and you feel like you are sitting in the courtroom
Shirley
I just don't know where to begin this review. My emotions became entangled with the Mother of this precious Daughter/victim. This book speaks of the love and total support you give your children to only have them a short time. I know the family feels blessed to have her the short time they did but... felt the great loss that was to come. This beautiful caring girl gave her friendship to evil. Was there warning signs that danger was lurking? Probably. The only thing I can say is that this child w ...more
Alisi ☆ needs to stop starting new books ☆
This is a very sad case.

Laura Hall should've gotten more time. That attitude of hers! I don't think I would've been able to keep from bashing her head into the floor from sheer annoyance. I found her callousness to be especially repugnant.

Wait! Hold that thought!

In an awesome demonstration of Karma, Ms. Hall got the length of her sentence overturned (it was five years for one charge and one for the other to be served at the same time.) At her second sentencing trail, she received the maximum s
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David Rainey
I agree the title was overkill. The boy may have been an alter boy in his past, but that in no way defined him at the time of the murder. Unfortuneatly the story has become all too commonplace. Spoiled young people with no moral base getting into drugs, and later turning to violence. They all don't turn into murderers, but they seem to lack compassion for others. Perhaps the drugs have more of an effect on people than we really know, with it's ability to change the psyche of people, turning them ...more
Clint
This was pretty hard to put down, like most true crime books, and I lived a few blocks from where all this took place for years, so there was the added interest in seeing all the places I used to go to and hang out at mentioned, but this writer is CHEESY!!!! It's like it was the script of a documentary. " 'She was always blah blah' so-and-so chuckles while running a hand through her hair." And I kept rolling my eyes at everyone meeting Jennifer Cave's "ghost" everywhere. But all the hokey writin ...more
Kristy Kelly
I've been a true crime buff for years but it still amazes me the things people do to others. This is a cautionary tale of drugs, money, and dangers of ignoring bells, whistles and warning signs. Before reading the book, I watched the 48 Hours Mystery which mainly focused on Laura Hall, the killers lover. Casey truly captured the evilness of the culprits as well as the beautiful spirit of victim Jennifer Cave. Also, the book highlighted the amazing strength and devotion of Jennifers mom, Sharon. ...more
Jessica
The writing in this book isn't great - I'll admit. The author uses the same phrases over and over, and it gets a bit annoying. But the story is incredibly interesting, and the events are placed in the book so that it keeps you on the edge of your seat. A real page-turner. I will say that I am glad I didn't pay full price, rather grabbed it from my mom's house when I was there on a visit. There are definitely better true-crime books out there, but if it's free then A Descent Into Hell is an enjoy ...more
Joe
I read this book close to a year ago, I still remember most of the story. A horrible death to a young woman at the hands of someone she thought was a friend. Even though Colton Pitonyak got a 55 year prison sentence I don't understand why Laura Hall only got 10 years. From reading the book I believe they both took part in the murder and mutilation. They both should have gotten the death sentence. The book was good and easy to keep up with.
Joann


I liked the investigation and trial parts of this book but I thought the first half describing the drugs and friendships went on too long. As a native Austinite, there were two very minor details that sort of rankled me. Please fix them in the next edition. It's Congress Avenue, not Congress Street. And the Drag is not Sixth Street -- it's Guadalupe between MLK and 26th Street. But all in all, a riveting book I could not put down.
Dawna
I remember when this happened. It shocked me then and this book still shocked me now. First off let me say that I cannot in any way imagine the horror that family went through discovering their daughter that way. I don't think I would be able to handle it at all. But the way they all banded together warmed my heart. My heart broke for everything Jennifer Cave went through in her short life, I hope and pray she is finally at peace.
Sasha
SUCH a good read. Good boy goes bad, small town girl gets lost in the big city, and of course, the love triangle to make it all worse. This book is very descriptive, in fact, I had dreams! None the less, Kathryn Casey did an amazing job at keeping the reader interested. Couldn't put it down. Very precise.
Susan Malone
One of the best true crime books I have read. Very well researched. I hope Sharon and her family are able to find peace and closure in their life if they have not already. Then again, losing a child in the most horrific way possible is more than anybody should ever have to deal with.
Karla Joy
While I agree with another reviewer that the book does have some spelling and grammar mistakes, I found the story to be very moving. Jennifer Cave's murder was an horrific act and Kathryn Casey did an excellent job presenting Cave's life story alongside the criminal evidence.
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Kathryn Casey is a Houston-based journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Newsweek, Texas Monthly, and many other publications.
More about Kathryn Casey...
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