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Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder
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Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  20,856 ratings  ·  546 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.
Paperback, 496 pages
Published July 5th 1988 by Berkley Books (first published 1987)
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Carol Waters
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Emily Lachut If you download this book via-amazon kindle store, I highly doubt it would cost anymore than $10
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
882 books — 1,357 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
538 books — 566 voters


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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
...more
Luvtoread
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
...more
Sherri
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010-book-list, i-own
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
Shyla
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
Mariel
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
Lisa
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
Sarah
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
Jessica
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
...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
...more
SAM
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Robby
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
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Small Sacrifices was an excellent true-crime novel with accurate and detailed information and a well-written set of events that explains the motives behind the case.
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.
Leigh
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
...more
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
Lori
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
...more
Ericka
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
Jlsimon
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book breaks my heart. This is a case study for the female antisocial personality disorder. This woman is practically a female Ted Bundy. Not because her crimes are the same, but you can almost see the same personality behind the face of Diane Downs.

I recommend this book to individuals who are perusing case studies of abnormal psychology with a focus on aberrant behaviors. I would even narrow that focus to individuals looking for case studies of women who are far removed from what we think
...more
CatBookMom
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.
Fishface
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.
Karen
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.
Jerry Westerby
Sep 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
Ann Rule has better access to criminal investigations than any other crime writer, but her terrible writing and insinuation of herself into the story ruins every book.
Mia
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed account of a crime, an investigation, and a trial. Small Sacrifices is an interesting psychological study, but it is lengthy and would benefit from some consolidation.
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
Irene
Oct 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in true crime
This book was very well written and researched and got me interrested in reading about true crime and the story behind it. This woman was a classic example of a disaster waiting to happen and the horror of helpless children caught in a
nightmare they are powerless to do anything about. I remember watching Opray interview this remorseless killer and thinking "How in the world could ANY mother do this to her children?!!!" This is a terrifying story about "love" gone disturbingly wrong, and one that
...more
Kellie
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.
Jan Sydnam
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Small Sacrifices is the story of Diana Downs, the woman that tried to murder all of her children when she thought it would benefit her fantasy relationship with a man. She's a very sick woman. She always told people she would someday be famous and live in a big house. Well, she is and she does...too bad her big house has cement walls and stanless steel toilets and mirrors.
Angie crosby
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Elmore
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf-true-crime
Think this was the first Ann Rule book I ever read. Have been a fan of her books ever since.
Suzie Flohr
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great book
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Play Book Tag: Small Sacrifices; 4 Stars 5 17 Jan 26, 2018 10:11PM  
Play Book Tag: Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule- 5 Stars! 2 13 Nov 06, 2017 01:45PM  
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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
...more
“would be terrified that she would be found out. She could be so frightened, perhaps, that she might blurt out a confession. No one was leaning on her. To a burdened conscience, silence and solicitude can be more threatening than interrogation.” 1 likes
“When this you see, remember me, And bear me in your mind. Let all the world say what they may. Speak of me as you find … —Elizabeth Diane Downs, 1983” 0 likes
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