Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Review: "Son: A Psychopath and His Victims" (Jack Olsen)

There's nothing more frightening than being afraid to live your normal life.

For the citizens of the once-quiet town of Spokane, Washington, however, over a two-and-a-half-year period, that was the terrible reality: being afraid even to step outside, let alone go anywhere, and especially not alone.

Someone with twisted desires watched from nearby.

Award-winning author Jack Olsen conducted interviews, compiled research through innumerable hours of work, and crafted the results into the nonfiction crime expose Son: A Psychopath and His Victims, about serial rapist Frederick Harlan Coe.

The work is as disturbing and horrifying as it is thorough and well-written, although it feels incongruous to call such a treatise "well-written" given its hideous contents. Nonetheless, Olsen more than upheld his mandate, perhaps both personal and professional, to render an accurate retelling of the facts of the case and the experiences and profiles of the many victims.

His masterful writing --- even about someone so thoroughly twisted as Coe, with his dysfunctional family, failed relationships, unbelievable ego, and complete absence of conscience or empathy --- turned out to be a pleasure to read.

Dozens of women suffered at Coe's hands, even as he led an imaginatively constructed double life. In one, he was a prominent citizen in town, the son of the newspaper editor, liked by his friends, close to his family, and bursting every minute with another brilliant if far-reaching idea or career path.

In the other, though, his relationship with his mother had long ago crossed the line into emotional and psychological incest, codependency, and manipulation; his father was emotionally absent and willingly bailed Fred out of any scrape; his relationships were characterized by distrust, controlled by his rampant mood swings, and full of the unreasonable and even ludicrous demands of someone well out of touch with reality; and not a single one of his brilliant ideas proved rational.

Be forewarned: Son is an absolute tome, packed with meticulous detail and respectfully rendered accounts from Coe's victims and friends, and the content is some of the most psychologically frightening and nightmarish that I've read in a long time.

I can't tell you what inspired me to pick up the book at my local library to read and review, but I can tell you that in spite of the vivid and brutal pictures it paints of a terrorized town and the serial rapist who held sway over so many victims, I am the better for having been exposed to Olsen's expert telling of the story.

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Author: Jack Olsen
Title: Son: A Psychopath and His Victims
ISBN: 978-1-5011-1904-0
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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