Sunday, 21 February 2016

'Everything She Ever Wanted' by Ann Rule

Reviewed by Susan Price.
Everything She Ever Wanted

It's hard to believe that this is an account of murders, attempted murders and trials that actually happened. It's way too over the top for fiction. No reader would ever believe it.

At the centre of it all is the woman born Mary Linda Patricia Vann, but usually known as Pat Allanson.

It is very hard to know what to make of her.

On one hand, she seems to have lived in a fantasy. She not only lived with her parents into old age, but lived on them, at their expense. In fact, her demands drove them into poverty. She seemed to have seen herself as an incarnation of Scarlett O'Hara, and wanted a Southern mansion where she could breed Morgan horses - despite the fact that the cost of such a place was far beyond her means.

She saw herself as a delicate, gentle Southern belle, bravely overcoming her ill-health and frailty. When challenged, she would cry or faint. One of her daughters observed that, despite this fraility, she could easily lift heavy saddles on and off horses' backs - and, in fact her worst illness, a abcess which nearly killed her from blood-poisoning, was self-inflicted. Medical check-ups revealed that, otherwise, she was strong as one of her horses.

Did her fantasy vision of herself, and her wild rages when she didn't get 'everything she ever wanted' mean that she was mentally ill?

And yet, she seems to have planned her actions carefully, and covered them up, in a way that doesn't suggest the disordered thinking of madness. She was so cunning that most of the crimes which it seems certain she committed, could not be pinned on her.

So, what did she do? Well, she married Tom Allanson, a blacksmith who had wealthy parents, from whom he was estranged. Pat Allanson seems to have nurtured the ill-feeling between them. Her parents-in-law were murdered in their basment, and their son was arrested for the crime. He was certainly present - he'd gone there at his wife's suggestion, to try and heal the breach between them. He went at a time when he knew his difficult father was at work, and he could talk alone with his mother.

Who was the woman who phoned his father's office and informed him that his son was at his home? Who cut the telephone wires?

After Allanson was jailed, his loving wife arranged control of most of his finances. The failing ranch her husband had bought her burned down and she got the insurance. His grandmother had had a stroke and his grandfather was elderly, so loving Pat moved into nurse them, won their trust, and gained their signature to papers which let her control their finances.

She tried to convince her jailed husband that he should join her in a suicide-pact because it was the only way they could ever be together. This he steadfastly refused. If he'd agreed, and killed himself in prison, maybe Pat Allanson would have killed herself too, to join him - or maybe she would have stayed alive and inherited from him.

His grandfather, under Pat's care, was rushed to hospital and nearly died from a mysterious illness which later turned out to be arsenic poisoning.

Detectives were certain that he'd been poisoned by his loving grandaughter-in-law, Pat Allanson, but they could not prove it. They could not discover where she'd obtained the arsenic or how she'd fed it to the old couple - though some time later a house-sitter became gravely ill after eating hotdogs and ice-cream from the old people's freezer. Evidence of poisoning, however, had been flushed away.

But I could not possibly untangle this woman's criminal career in a short review. Suffice to say, that people who encountered her continued to suffer the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, including her own daughter.

Throughout, Pat Allanson's mother maintained that her daughter was innocent and harmless.

The cover may be lurid but don't let it put you off. This is a truly eye-popping account of just how mad those mortals be.

Susan Price is the award winning author of The Ghost Drum and The Sterkarm Handshake.

Her first original self-published book, The Drover's Dogs, is now available.