Carol Anne Davis

Summersdale / 304 pages / (14 July 2016)

ISBN: 1849538832

Carol Anne Davis has written some of the most chilling novels of dark realism of this century. If you haven’t caught any of these nightmarish situations, sadistic murders, obsessed lovers, relentless investigators, and paraphiliae aplenty, you need to start with NOISE ABATEMENT and work your way through SHROUDED. Why, you can find reviews of NOISE ABATEMENT, KISS IT AWAY, and SAFE AS HOUSES right here on MEview, as a matter of fact. Mixed in with this graphic and terrifying fiction she found time to research and write some even more, well, graphic and terrifying non-fiction.

Parents, couples, teens, children, doctors, women, pre-teens — all of these have been pinned under Davis’ microscope and none have escaped her psychological dissection to be laid bare. As much sociopaths can be understood by those without anti-social personality disorder (which I submit is never completely) she has unraveled their thoughts and motivation for us. Interviews with experts and victims, case-studies, and in-depth research provide readers with a view of murderers never before seen.

MASKING EVIL: WHEN GOOD MEN AND WOMEN TURN CRIMINAL is a departure from these in-depth case studies. With thirty-seven cases and thirty-eight people to cover Davis has opted to provide a detailed view of the murderer when they were just normal people, or seemed to be a normal. Then, there are the stressors or the desires that pushed them closer to the criminal acts that landed them in this book. Finally, *snap* they kill. What you have here is an amuse-bouche of case studies for readers to pick and choose about which ones they want to dig into and learn more.

Now, not every murderer in this book starts out “good.” Double-murderer Steven Harper and others tortured animals as children, one of the classic markers of sociopathy. (No news of nocturnal enuresis, but committing murder is a pretty inarguable marker.) What is not surprising is how many of the killers were connected with a religion — sometimes their very own religion — the extremely devout, the altar boy, the monk, and, especially, those who wish to work with youth.

For instance, youth pastor Rick Pulley who told his then-girlfriend Patty Jo that he would kill her if she ever left him (huge hint to run for it) then married her and became one of the worst husbands ever. Among his other massive failings, he was “addicted” to phone sex lines, spending hundreds of dollars they didn’t have every month, Even though he continued to talk of missionary work and taking on more responsibilities at the church, he was carrying on affairs and beating his wife in addition to enjoying the phone sex. Eventually, his wife was more trouble than she was worth, so…

Another, more frightening category of killer in MASKING EVIL? Those in positions of power — deputies, police, patrolman, marshals — the very people we are raised to believe are there to protect us. I was schooled long ago when being pulled over to drive to well-lit, well-populated area, if not the police station because of cases precisely like Craig Peyer’s. A highway patrolman, he was eventually caught after murdering Cara Knott on a dead end road where, as it was quickly affirmed, he pulled over a number of young, blonde women and frightened when with inappropriate touching and menacing…

Imagine my sense of security: I have just returned from England, not thrilled to be back in the gun capital of the world, reading a true crime book about your seemingly average citizen suddenly committing a murder or a few and– Wait! Sam Smithers. This bag o’ dicks had his own little spree not twenty miles from where I was lying down…

Maybe the checklist style of MASKING EVIL lacks the deep-down dread and nauseous effect Davis’ more in-depth case studies evoke, but it only takes a connection like that to remind you that anyone one this list could be decide you are the one standing in the way of their happiness. This time the statements really will be they were perfectly normal and a wonderful neighbour; just not the perfect husband, wife, youth minister, safety officer, childminder, or…neighbour.