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on February 17, 2007
Responding to the reviewer who said she doesn't know why Cheryl went to the gas station alone that night when she knew she was in danger, there can be only one answer: Her twisted, sociopathic monster "husband" threatened to kill her children if she didn't do just that. Cheryl was an intelligent woman who knew the danger she was in and whose only protection/recourse was the ominous letter she left before leaving that night. And what decent, loving mother wouldn't have risked her own safety for the safety, even the very lives, of her kids? Here, too, one sees that no matter what sins the mother may have been guilty of prior to her marriage to this murderer, she certainly knew what side she was on after looking true evil straight in the eye. And, no question, this good mother's compassion, courage and love were proven beyond a reasonable doubt by her final and incomprehesible sacrifice, all of which shine forever from the grave. Bradley Cunningham deserves never to go free and deserved the death penalty.
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on September 7, 2002
Ann Rule, the American true crime diva, has published plenty of books over the past 20+ years. Unfortunately the quality of this material has varied, largely depending on the personal (emotional) interest she has on the subject matter. Fortunately in Dead by Sunset, a story about a handsome and charming monster named Brad Cunningham, the author is clearly caught up in all aspects of a horrific crime (a wife/mother/attorney is bashed to a pulp). She in fact dedicates the book to the victim and all abused women.
Dead by Sunset's strengths are not in the unravelling of the crime (..we know early on who does it) or in the analysis of the criminal trials (..actually this is the weak part of the book). It is Ann Rule's in-depth analysis of the women who completely fall for an intelligent, sex-on-legs Romeo who really seems to hate women. Brad Cunningham is truly a vile person. But upon reading the book one has to wonder how is that several wives and mistresses could be fooled into loving him? Ann Rule never attempts at answering this question. Yet we certainly see the repurcussions of loving Mr Wrong.
Bottom line: while the momentum sputters slightly towards the end, one has to be impressed with Ann Rule's attention to detail and writing talents. Strongly recommended.
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on June 21, 2002
One of, if not the best in the True Crime genre, Ann Rule weaves the unbelievable, (if it weren't all true) tale of Brad Cunningham, left a widower when his wife's body was discovered in an abandoned car. The car was discovered in the fast lane of traffic with Cheryl Keeton's battered bodt behind the wheel, already dead. But all is not as it seems. Ann Rule is able to piece together the facts behind the case, especuially when family and police begin to believe that Brad is not just the grieving widower. With exhaustive research, Rule fills out the story, the marriage between Brad and Cheryl that started with such promise, and the children that became pawns in Brad's quest to get away from a crumbling marriage. Piecing together facts about his childhood , Rule draws a portrait of a ruthless killer who would sacrifice anything that could no longer help him, or threatened to get in his way. Detailing his financial manuverings, legal wranglings and multiple marraiges it is soon clear the "great catch" Brad Cunningham is not at all wht he appears. So if you are newly on the dating scene, take my advice, either give up reading Ann Rule, or get a good PI!
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on October 18, 2001
I first got interested in this story when I saw the made-for-TV movie by the same title. If you liked the movie, get the book, because Brad is so evil that the movie could not depict it in four hours. This very charismatic man could get just about any woman, no matter how attractive or intelligent, to do what he wanted: hand over tens of thousands of dollars for him to live on, become an exotic dancer, or divorce her husband for him. And once he got his hooks into someone, she was never, ever free. He knew how to stay one step ahead of the law always, and somehow as he was under enormous financial strain, he managed to stalk and torment several people at a time. His capacity for evil seemed boundless, and his case almost never went to trial. Reading it, I felt the fear these women must have felt, and the desperation that he'd never be caught.
The author does a good job of taking the long, complex story of Brad, Cheryl, and the others in their lives, and telling it in a way that we can keep track of the dozens of characters. There are many true crime books that just lose me in the multitudes of characters, but this one is organized into sections so that each of the main people gets his/her story told in one thread. The timeline jumps around a little, but it is relatively easy reading.
Just some minor problems: The book mentioned several times what a brilliant lawyer Cheryl was. She must have been, but I would have liked if this book gave more detail about her performance on the job. It seems like more detail was given to Brad's career (during the rare times he worked). Also, the book describes how Cheryl steals Brad from his third wife, and then during the civil trial, the prosecutor says, "...that wasn't what had happened at all." No matter who pursued who, she did in fact steal him.
Besides those two minor inconsistencies, it was a great story and I'm ready to start reading another Ann Rule book tomorrow!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 3, 2000
Brad Cunningham was truly a killer Casanova. Married several times and the father of several children, he finally got caught when he married Cheryl Keeton.
Brilliant and a successful lawyer, Cheryl was beguiled by the intelligent man of natual charm and quick wit. Three sons were born of their union, each one described as being highly intelligent like their mother.
Cheryl adored the boys and would do anything and everything for them. She also accepted Brad's older children wholeheartedly. Unfortuately for all, Cheryl's sons never really got to know this because she was killed when they were quite small.
Cheryl's dream of a happy life as Brad's wife ended with her death. Brad's dream of continuing to maintain a certain lifestyle at the expense of others would soon become a dream deferred.
Cocky and confident that he had pulled off the untraceable murder, Brad set to work finding yet another willing wife. That cockiness was to prove his undoing when he served as his own counsel during his 1994 trial.
Brad got what he deserved which is life behind bars. As for his hapless children and former wives, one can only hope and pray that their lives have worked out despite their many hardships caused by this killer Casanova.
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on August 8, 2000
Ann Rule has written over 17 books, and she has this astonishing ability to write every one of them in such a way that the readers, no matter how far away from the locales where the events took place (after all, Australia is QUITE a ways from Portland, Oregon!) will feel that they are actually there, she writes in an understated way that enables the readers to feel compassion for all the principal characters in her books(including the criminals), and most importantly, she writes her stories in a sensitive fashion which is at the non exploitive end of the spectrum. Not all true crime authors write like this, and they should.
Here, in describing Bradly Morris Cunningham, a handsome, charming, seemingly rich and sophisticated man who would be a prime catch for any woman, Ann is at her best again. For Brad Cunningham was none of those things except handsome and charming, for these 2 qualities enabled him to lure into his web of deception smart, professional women. Rich? No, he lost millions of dollars in shady business deals. Sophisticated? No, he was a boor. He was also a misogynistic, cruel, self centred sociopath who thought nothing of using and abusing everybody, be they male OR female, who had the supreme misfortune of coming into his orbit. Like a true sociopath, he gave nothing, but took and took and took, and when a sociopath is tired of someone or something, they will discard it, and they don't care if they have to commit murder to accomplish that. And that is exactly what Brad did to Cheryl. She gave him status, money, and 3 lovely sons, but when she could give him no more he murdered her and dumped the vehicle which contained her corpse onto a freeway, hoping that it would cause a major accident that would conceal the homicide.
But like most sociopaths, Brad Cunningham screamed, ranted, and raved during his trial in 1994 which also served as his unmasking. And he was finally given the gift that he didn't want, but which Cheryl's survivors did, and that was the gift of justice.
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on July 5, 2000
This book was one of the first true-crime novels I ever read. I picked it up at an airport (another reviewer mentioned the same thing - must be the thing to do) because it took place in Oregon. I was fascinated (and horrified) by the fact that these crimes took place in locales I drove by every day. It was like a car accident - I couldn't look away, hideous as it was, knowing that this man lived and killed in my beloved city.
Ann Rule has a way with criminal stories - making them accessible to the average reader but including all the details fit to lure in those more familiar with the genre. She includes plenty of backstory and it's obvious she has spent countless hours interviewing and observing key players. I've added more of her books to my wish list.
[An aside: Does Ms. Rule do a lot more writing of true-crime in the Pacific Northwest than in other areas or is it just location-bias on my part? If so, why? Does she like the area or does the PNW have a lot more murders and serial killings? Just a simple observation...]
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on April 29, 2000
Brad Cunningham bludgeons his estranged wife to death and then pushes the van onto the Sunset Freeway in Oregon hoping cars will pile into the vehicle and the murder will look like a traffic accident. Cunningham is a classic psychopath in the mode of Jeffrey McDonald, but even more predatory. He had five or six wives, seven or so kids, made and lost millions, a complete control freak, charming, macho, handsome, athletic, a wife beater without a conscience.
Exposing characters like this is what Ann Rule does best, and she's on top of her game here. The women don't look so good either, although Rule is always sympathetic. I couldn't help but think about all the karmas they created by having and raising Cunningham's children. Rule kept saying they were "in love" as though that excused their behavior-in love with a psychopath, wanting him and wanting his children, and even raising his children from previous marriages. Our social sense of right and wrong condemns his behavior, but does it applaud theirs? In the long run their actions create and nurture psychopaths past and to come, yet the women couldn't resist him. They all melted for him and for his children. Yet he beat and brutalized them. Their primitive desire for what they saw as the superior man, the alpha male, was so strong that they risked death to be possessed by him. The Sunset Freeway victim, apparently an otherwise excellent person, "upgraded" to him and paid the awful price. Rule gives no details about the drugs they did and she considerably downplays the sex graphics as though this were evidence in a trial and she wasn't allowed to sully the principals. Ann Rule fans know this is her style, and perhaps it is best to concentrate on the essentials.
Dead By Sunset is a good read and a disturbing and profoundly sad story.
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on July 15, 1998
It used to be I only picked up a true-crime account occasionally. Now I find myself seeking them. Especially if they are written by Ann Rule. I don't know anyone who makes me feel as if I am along for the ride as she does. This man was so manipulative, and has so many believing his every whining complaint, I just wanted to smack him myself! As in all of her accounts of deception and murder, I felt as if she was speaking directly to me. I wanted to stand up in the courtroom and speak my piece. A book, which at times seems to be only words, can grab you if it contains substance and it can make you feel the tension, waiting to explode on the next page. I actually found myself with a gaping expression because I couldn't believe some of the events that occured throughout this man's life. Of course, I know it sounds ridiculous, but Mz. Rule made it ever more real to me with the detail and intense investigation needed to write this book. Thank you for all your account! ! s of true-crime, which have made me realize that one really has to be careful with the sickos we have out there today. Jeanine
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on March 10, 1998
This was the first book I read by Ann Rule, but as soon as I was done I went to the Library and took out two more. Alot of True crime stories go too much in to detail and the reader starts skipping though it or they lose the reader completly, But not Ann Rule. She makes you feel as though you know everyone in the book. It blows my mind that people are capable of such cruelty. This was such a sensless crime. She was telling everyone for so long that he was going to kill her. She even went as far as to tell people that he would use the children to lure her away to kill her. Although I felt terrible for Cheryl, I was a little angry with her for meeting him at the gas station by herself after she herself told everyone that she knew he was going to use the children to lure her away. I really feel bad for the children and I hope that they realize what a monster their dad is and how much their mother really loved them. I would love an update on what everyone is doing now. There was a TV move on this book, it was alright but the book (as usual) was much better
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