Jim Thomsen's Reviews > But I Trusted You and Other True Cases

But I Trusted You and Other True Cases by Ann Rule
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Jul 26, 10

Read in November, 2009

The blood is beginning to run thin in the Ann Rule's Crime Files series, in which annually she trots out one new case at novella length along with four or five short pieces from the 1960s and 1970s when she wrote prolifically for true-crime magazines.

The centerpiece story is about Chuck Leonard and Teresa Gaethe-Leonard, a Snohomish County, Wash. couple whose marriage hit the rocks in the mid-'90s and ended in the shooting murder of Chuck, a much-loved school counselor. Teresa was fingered for his death, but managed to flee the country for several months before being recaptured in Puerto Rico and returned to face trial.

The story itself is interesting, but the storytelling itself is pretty lackluster. That's attributable to one reason — lack of access. Rule usually is able to tell these stories from the perspective of someone close to the killer or the victim — a friend, a relative or a colleague — but in the case of "But I Trusted You," she came up empty. The background of both Leonards is sketchily rendered, as are the events in the couple's marriage that led to its acrimonious dissolution.

It seems clear that such swiss-cheese storytelling took place here because the people Rule interviewed simply weren't that close to either Chuck or Teresa, who both come off as somewhat murky and secretive people who apparently didn't care to unburden themselves to others. So, besides a handful of interviews with people peripheral to their lives, Rule has little to rely on for the vital connective tissue that any true-crime narrative needs save the police reports and court documents related to the case.

It's too bad, because this is a story that had all the elements of a first-rate true-crime thriller. Chuck Leonard was no saint, though Rule makes clear he was the more likable of the two; and Teresa Gaethe-Leonard comes off as a hustler and scammer who bored easily and was constantly looking for fresh romance. Both, at the time of their split, had lovers in their lives. Teresa's boyfriend, a rich man in Hawaii, worked with her to devise a complicated scheme to extricate her from her husband and leave with an unfettered and permanent claim to their young child. How involved was he? And then there's Teresa's long flight from justice — did she flee alone, or did she have help? Did more than one person bankroll her life on the run?

Unfortunately, "But I Trusted You" doesn't provide satisfying answers to these questions, or to the dozens of others that will likely pop up as you read this threadbare tale. She didn't talk to Teresa Gaethe-Leonard, currently in prison. Nor did she talk to the lovers of both Leonards. And the siblings of both have surprisingly little of value to say.

The shorter stories, as always, are a mixed bag of the incomplete and the incomprehensible.

It appears that Rule, for all her decades of prolific productions, may no longer be able to manage the workload of a quickie story collection and a bigger standalone book (the one she was working on all of last year, while "But I Trusted You" was being slapped together, is expected to come out later this year).

Rule has her critics, and sometimes earns her criticism. (I, for one, am weary of her increasing penchant for soapy Oprah-esque moralizing and philosophizing about the eternal plight of People Who Love The Wrong People.) On balance, however, she's had a fine career and several of her books belong in the first rank of classic true crime.

Now that she's in her mid-70s, I hope she'll consider giving herself a break and slowing down. I think her fans would appreciate fewer and better stories that resemble those of her 1980s career peak than a higher volume of weaker tales.
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