Review: A Wife's Revenge

A Wife's Revenge (St. Martin's True Crime Library)A Wife's Revenge
by Eric Francis

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A Wife's Revenge / 0-312-98519-3

In order for a true crime story to really resonate with the reader, there needs to be either a sense of the unique or a sense of outrage as justice is sought (and possibly denied). This book does neither, and manages to load up on shoddy second-hand journalism and editorializing to boot.

First of all, there is nothing shocking, sensational, or new about this case. A husband - one with a serious coke habit (so much so that he ran deeply into debt and came home high frequently), who abused his wife and children, and who brought home STDs to his unsuspecting wife after business trips - is murdered in bed. The wife is either a woman fed up and turned killer, or a seriously mentally shaken abuse victim.

Neither of those options are particularly new or noteworthy, and what little interest the reader may initially have will surely flag as Jeffrey Wright is carefully laid out as an incredibly unsympathetic victim - a man who comes home high on coke and forces his 4-year-old son to "box" with his father. And if Susan is truly mentally damaged - and despite the author's best efforts, she really seems to be so - then the reading isn't driven by a sense of righteous anger, waiting for justice to be done, but rather by a complete weariness that these two messed up people slipped through the cracks and destroyed one another.

The writing here is completely ridiculous. The author openly makes up "facts" because "no one except Susan really knows" and sensationalizes both the killing and the perpetrator. MUCH is made of the fact that for eight days in her 26-year life, Susan was a topless dancer. Eight days out of ~10,000 is not enough to leave a lasting impression - I certainly doubt it did for Susan - but the author refers to her as a stripper practically every third page. Nice yellow journalism there. When she's not being referred to as a stripper, the author invariably labels Susan as "pretty little wife" and "hot little wife". Someone, somewhere, has written a nice feminist treatise on the word "little" and how it means so much more than just "small" when applied to women, but I suppose now isn't the time or the place.

The section on domestic abuse is just sickening. Author Francis deadpans: "Most abused women don't have any great-sounding reason why they let somebody pound on them again and again... If every woman who got hit in this country simply stood up on the spot, gathered up any kids, and permanently left the person who'd hit them, there wouldn't really be much concern with a 'cycle of violence and abuse'." I can't begin to get out what's wrong with that attitude - way to completely ignore the fact that in many cases women who leave are MORE likely to be killed by their abusers! Way to also ignore the fact that many women in our country aren't equipped to be single parents - does the author know that in several states, being a victim of abuse can mean complete denial of health insurance as a "pre-existing condition"? No, let's just blame the victims who "let" people pound on them.

In closing, it's hard for me to think much of a "true crime" author who writes, "Consider for a moment if the tables had been turned... and it had been Jeff who stabbed Susan... he would have had the proverbial snowball's chance in Hell of succeeding [at trial]." Really? You might want to google "O.J. Simpson".

~ Ana Mardoll

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