Book Review: A Tangled Web by Leslie Rule
Leslie Rule has some big shoes to fill as she follows in her mother Ann’s steps as a true crime writer. Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy (The Stranger Beside Me) is considered by many as THE seminal book on Bundy, and Ann Rule wrote any number of superbly researched, fascinating true crime stories. Leslie started as a photographer for her mother, and since Ann Rule’s death in 2015, Leslie has decided to move into true crime writing herself. A Tangled Web is her first case story and it’s an absolutely fascinating read.
A Tangled Web is very much a modern murder case, with technology at the very heart of it, as the killer perpetrated not only a murder but also identity theft, catfishing, stalking and more, all triggered because of meetings which occurred because of online dating. Sending over 20,000 emails and text messages to support her crimes, the killer fooled law enforcement for several years as the victim’s family couldn’t get anyone to believe their daughter was actually missing. It took a team of dedicated and computer-savvy detectives to finally unravel the web and build a case (without a body!) to finally get justice for Cari Farver.
Leslie Rule builds a very thorough case. The killer’s state of mind is opaque throughout, her motivations obviously something of a mystery to the author at times because of her contradictory actions, but the facts and timeline are established through the incredible digital trail painstakingly constructed for the trial. At times I think the author got a little bogged down in the sheer volume of data available; 20,000 is a lot of emails to sift through. They’re obviously not all reproduced here, but even so I think there are some things which could have been left out or drawn with broader strokes. That said, the level of detail did make the sheer pressure of stalking Dave Kroupa endured feel very real and immediate, almost claustrophobic.
One thing the book does is bring into sharp focus the dangers of online dating and the fact that you have no idea who you’re exposing yourself to. Dave Kroupa was a decent guy, but the women he met online had no idea he had a dangerous stalker who might on a whim decide they would be her next victim of online harassment… or worse.
This is a solid read and fascinating in the almost forensic inspection of the technology the killer used to support her crimes, but I do think it could have been pared down a little. It’s a bit too dense and the message is at times lost in the details. Overall, I’ll give it four stars and look forward to Leslie Rule’s next case study!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.