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Small Sacrifices

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  25,871 ratings  ·  815 reviews
Ann Rule's shocking and powerful account of the destructive forces that drove Diane Downs, a beautiful young mother, to shoot her three young children in cold blood. ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 5th 1988 by Berkley Books (first published 1987)
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rebecca It's heartbreaking, but one of Ann Rule's most compelling books. …moreIt's heartbreaking, but one of Ann Rule's most compelling books. (less)
Jennifer Maloney Looks like the Kindle version is available on Amazon for $5.99. You might also see if your library has it in e-book format, if that's the format you'r…moreLooks like the Kindle version is available on Amazon for $5.99. You might also see if your library has it in e-book format, if that's the format you're set on reading.(less)
In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonColumbine by Dave Cullen
Best True Crime
1,164 books — 1,716 voters
In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
True Crime
669 books — 632 voters

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Average rating 4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  25,871 ratings  ·  815 reviews

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Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book you wish was fiction instead of true crime of a sociopathic mother. This woman always wanted to be loved by men she couldn't have yet was relentless in her pursuit of one married man. I don't want to say too much
and spoil the story. This is a fascinating story of a Narcissus and a calculated killer who committed the ultimate vicious heartbreaking crimes, hence the name Small Sacrifices! This book is very comprehensive in all the events in
Diane Downs life and covers the trial and
Jim Thomsen
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books from Ann Rule's best stretch of writing, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. "Small Sacrifices" is leaner, fairer and more balanced than Rule's bloated, often slanted later works in which saccharine philosophizing pushes its way into the narratives.

The irony is that a lot of people — mostly Diane Downs supporters, who, nearly three decades later are still legion — will be happy to tell you that "Small Sacrifices" is one of her most biased works. That's because
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own, 2010-book-list
I saw a special on Diane Downs and her daughter Becky Babcock on an episode of 20/20 a couple weeks ago. The story was horrific but intriging to me. In the episode they talked about how this woman, Diane, had shot her 3 children, killing 1 of them and injuring the other 2. She blamed everything on a "bushy haired stranger" who shot the kids, but she was still found GUILTY in her long trial. Before she got arrested she became pregnant with Becky (who was originally named Amy) and the 20/20 episod ...more
4.5 Stars

Diane Downs is one of the most horrifying murderers I've ever read about. Not only was her crime heinous but add to that her total lack of conscious. Diane Downs is a truly evil "human being".

On the night of May 19 1983 a woman drives to the hospital emergency room, screaming that she had been attacked by a "Shaggy haired man". The woman was suffering from a gunshot wound to the arm but the nursing staff also noticed that in the car lay 2 critically injured children. A little girl and
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Feels weird to rate a true crime book about a woman who tried to murder her three kids with a "I really liked it". But I was very interested in the story and thought it well written and very balanced between the legal side and the emotional side. As someone who likes to learn about the human psych this was hard to put down. Not sure if there is a more diverse, strange person to study then Diane Downs. This lady is nuts! And even so, even so I could not help the tiny voice in the back of my mind ...more
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hungry like the wolf
Recommended to Mariel by: the rachel
I remember watching the tv version of Small Sacrifices in the 1980's. There's a scene of Diane Downs (played by Farrah Fawcett's hair) where she's driving the kids to the middle of nowhere for less witnesses (preferably none alive, anyway) to their impending murder. The twin and I loved to panic and yell "This isn't the way home!" whenever in the car with our mom (she loved it), and other such fun scenes from the film. (There's a darker side to that story in that mom whined faaar too much for my ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
That's it... I'm done with Ann Rule. Peace, sister.

I've been in the mood for true crime lately, and I was inspired to pick up Small Sacrifices by my fond memories of Rule's The Stranger Beside Me, which I read in high school. I remember really enjoying that book, but after finishing this one I'm doubting my memories. I am SO disappointed with Small Sacrifices.

For the life of me, I don't understand what Rule saw in Diane Downs that made her want to write a five-hundred-page book about her. Diane
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Postal workers and daycare workers.
Shelves: true-crime
Crazy Diane Downs! Even crazier, if you Google her, you'll see that her poor father has a website devoted to her innocence. I know it's pitiful and comes from heartbreak and desperation, but it really bugs me when a loved one of an accused killer (Jackie Peterson; Diane's father) actually justify seemingly remorseless behavior with stupid, disingenuous lines like "You can't know how you'll react under those circumstances. Everyone is different". This is just plain incorrect. In fact, we CAN, thr ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-true-crime, 2016
A fascinating crime will always transfer to a good true crime book as long as its well written and ‘Small Sacrifices’ is pure class. There’s crazy criminals and then there’s Diane Downs who’s way way out there on her own far distant universe. As this is public record I don’t think i’ll be ruining it for anyone when I explain the story. On May 19th 1983 Diane, along with her three children, pulled up at her local hospital in a blood drenched car. All four passengers had gun shot related injuries ...more
Katherine Addison
Ann Rule wrote mediocre books, good books, and excellent books. This is one of the excellent ones.

It makes an interesting companion to The Stranger Beside Me; Diane Downs is strongly reminiscent of Ted Bundy, even down to the chameleon quality they share; just as with Bundy, any two photographs of Diane Downs might, on a casual glance, seem to be of two completely different people. And, of course, like Bundy, Downs is a sociopath.

(There are a lot of different words to describe people like Bundy
Kathryn Casey
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Ann Rule book. I believe this book convinced me to be a true crime writer. Amazing character development with outstanding research.
9/6 - A true crime story of a mother who attempted to get rid of her kids because she believed that the man she was obsessed with would want her more if the kids were gone. I think this story would have been more horrific, would have had more of an impact on a reader when this was first published. Readers really would have been thinking "How could a mother do that to her own children?!" Today it's not that uncommon of a story, Law and Order has covered it many times. I'm not sure whether readers ...more
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Emily Thompson, Vicki Mason
Shelves: true-crime
OMG. I'm about to go on an Ann Rule reading spree. This book was so good I neglected pretty much everything I should have been doing this past week because I could not stop reading it.

The amount of research Rule must have had to do to paint such a complete picture of Diane Downs and all the aspects of her crime and trial just boggles the mind.

Overall Downs was a pretty horrible person, utterly selfish and ceaselessly attention seeking. She supposedly suffered from three different personality di
I'll never forget the "live"(from prison)interview of the female monster of this book on the "Oprah" show some years back. It was the only time I ever saw (of the few times I ever watched the show,of course(Ha)),Oprah get so angry that had - that woman(monster)of been in studio with her-Oprah wanted to and would have physically beaten her down. Of course,to the delight and cheers of the audience. This book will absolutely put a knot in your stomach,that to some degree, I truly believe never enti ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
I can see how people would be flabbergasted by the actions of Diane Downs. I can't see how people can think her a person railroaded by the police. Her life story, told by herself and her family, friends, and acquaintances expose an individual of very little self-control. Her transitory desires became her absolute needs in her mind all of her life, and if she couldn't get what she wanted, there were tantrums and rage. As long as she felt she could manipulate someone or force someone into getting ...more
A book that gripped me so much that three years after I first read it I continue to read it each year. And it still fills me with horror, dread and makes me very grateful to have had the loving mother I did.

Having never heard of Diane Downs or read an Ann Rule book before I wasn't sure what this book would be like but the story intrigued me. I went into it with an open mind about the crime in question and decided to let it play out before deciding if I thought Diane had done it. From page one th
Bon Tom
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
There's only one mom...
Mr Stewart
Jul 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Rule has a number of irritating tendencies as an author, all of which are in full force in this book. I agree that this is certainly one of her better efforts, however, I couldn't help but wish throughout that this story had been written by someone other than Rule. There are lengthy sections dedicated to Downs' journal, often written sort of as chapters from her perspective. Some of that is welcome to shed light on the perpetrator's personality. Here it gets to a point of bloated unnecessary dum ...more
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book by Ann Rule that I've read, I listened to the audiobook and Ann Rule narrated it. I like her writing style. She was a great writer. I watched the 20/20 special about Diane Downs a few weeks ago and decided to read this book. I hadn't heard of this case before; Diane is a horrible person. I'll read more by Ann Rule. ...more
Nope . Unless you want to read 400+ pages of child abuse and deprivation , then learn how Mom killed one and shot the other two leaving them permantly physically damaged (not to mention the emotional stuff) . It almost made me glad to return to the endless COVID-19 coverage on TV
Grady Hendrix
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Only the second true crime novel I've read in my life but definitely curious to read more, especially by Ann Rule. Diane Downs' story was not one I was familiar with prior to this book, but man was it an awful one. I will never understand how anyone could harm or kill their own children. Hearing the things Diane said and did during the investigation and trial was heartbreaking. She was just such a mentally unstable person and her behavior was disturbing as all get out. ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps nothing is more frightening or fascinating than the female sociopath and maybe that's partly why this book is so intriguing and such a true crime classic (or should be!)
In May of 1983, young divorced mother of three Diane Downs shows up at an Oregon ER with her three children. All of them have been shot, by a bushy haired stranger that Diane ostensibly stopped to help. Certainly shocking enough to think that anyone would shoot three young children, but investigation into the incident un
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anne Rule is an incredible writer. She has a knack for hooking her audience and telling tales too horrific to believe they are true. I think she sets up stories well and has you turning each page as quickly as you can to find out how it all ends. However, my only complaint about her style of writing is that she almost always seems to portray her subjects are more beautiful than they truly are. The men are extraordinarily handsome. The woman are beyond attractive. Granted, this is subjective, but ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I have only recently become a Murderino, so this was my first Ann Rule book. The writing was pretty good, but I found it hard to read for two reasons. The first is that the copy editing is horrendous! There are way too many typos and misspelled words, like "payed," which is just ridiculous. The second reason is that Diane Downs is such a terrible person! Obviously I knew someone who would shoot her own kids has to be a terrible person, but the book is full of her delusional, narcissistic ramblin ...more
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this book every few years. Quite a few years ago, I worked for a magazine publisher focusing on law enforcement organizations, i.e. police chiefs, sheriffs, troopers, etc. One of the Oregon troopers was familiar with this case and the various law enforcement people involved, and mentioned that Ann Rule was writing a book about it. Couldn't wait to read the book back then, and I still feel the same sense of heartbreak each time I read it.

2019: Reread this book and am still awed by Rule'
Dec 29, 2008 rated it liked it
The writing isn't just awesome, but it's a solid book. I read it when it first came out, in around 1988, but I always remembered it because of the haunting portrait of Diane Downs. So I found it again and re-read it and it was even better the second time. I'd love to have an even more up-to-date update on Downs, though I assume she's still in prison for life in New Jersey. Fascinating true crime book. ...more
I remember when Farrah Fawcett played Diane in a TV movie, years ago, and found myself still remembering bits of that when reading this last night. Diane is a fascinating, scary character, and it is so sad that she did so much damage to her children. Having just Googled for updates, she was denied parole in 2010, and won't be eligible even for a hearing until 2020. I hope she never gets out. ...more
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
true story of Diana Downs and the murder of her kids. excellent story makes u wonder what these people think that these innocent beings become so expendable and inconvenient --people like tht shouldn't have kids. ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is my favorite Ann Rule, even after all this time. She really gets into the killer's head, but is so revolted by her crimes that she can't find it in herself to have any real sympathy for her. Reads more like a novel than a true crime story. ...more
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Ann Rule was a popular American true crime writer. Raised in a law enforcement and criminal justice system environment, she grew up wanting to work in law enforcement herself. She was a former Seattle Policewoman and was well educated in psychology and criminology.

She came to prominence with her first book, The Stranger Beside Me, about the Ted Bundy murders. At the time she started researching th

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