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by Aphrodite Jones
Pinnacle, July 2004
347 pages
ISBN: 0786016949

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A PERFECT HUSBAND is the novelization of the Kathleen Peterson murder. Kathleen was found at the bottom of a steep stairway, apparently killed in an accidental fall. However, she had suspicious cuts on the back of her head, and blood was spattered up to ten feet away.

Although Michael Peterson and the children insisted that the police were taking revenge for Michael's anti-cop opinion columns, Michael was arrested and tried for first-degree murder. During the trial, which was televised on Court TV, several suspicious and unsavory facts came out about the supposedly loving Michael.

Court TV aficionados and readers who like chills in an undemanding writing style might enjoy this book. I found it melodramatic, as if People Magazine tried to do an episode of CSI. The first two-thirds of the novel set the background by telling, in redundant cliches, how loving and devoted everyone in the family was, particularly Michael.. "Without her he felt dead inside. There was nothing to look forward to." "They had a love and respect that few couples ever knew." "No attorney on earth could have prepared him for the loneliness he was feeling." "Michael still wanted to be near her."

Considering that we all know that he's going to be tried for her murder, I think the author doth protest too much.

The writing does not get any crisper later on. Science always takes a back seat to emotionalism; when the jury sees the site of the death, the tone of the book turns into pure pulp. "It was there that the phantasm of Kathleen in crimson blood, the image of her mangled body, had become all the more accessible. From within the house, the stairwell lent itself to a sense of bitter struggle. It had become eerie -- like a vault that entombed Kathleen Peterson's shrieks -- her death cries."

After all that long, slow, over-emotional set-up, the actual description of the trial was unsatisfying. A lot of information has been left out, leaving the reader with dozens of questions. Why did the Ratliff girls allow their mother to be exhumed, since they could stop it and they were convinced that a new autopsy would only prejudice the jury against their adoptive father? Did any of the children change their mind about their father's innocence during the trial? What did the press report after the verdict? And most of all, after all that time describing everyone in the main book, why didn't the author let us know the fates of the people involved instead of spending the entire codicil talking about the ludicrous defense used at the retrial?

In the end, A PERFECT HUSBAND is a potboiler, suitable for a little melodramatic reading with the extra shock of truth, but ultimately unsatisfying for anyone interested in a serious, clinical treatment of the case.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, November 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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