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Dead by Sunset: Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer? [Kindle Edition]

Ann Rule
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The author of eight New York Times bestsellers, Ann Rule first won nationwide acclaim with The Stranger Beside Me, about serial killer Ted Bundy. Her Crime Files volumes, based on fascinating case histories, have assured her reputation as our premier chronicler of crime. Now the former Seattle policewoman brings us the horrific account of a charismatic man adored by beautiful and brilliant women who always gave him what he, money, their very lives....
When attorney Cheryl Keeton's brutally bludgeoned body was found in her van in the fast lane of an Oregon freeway, her husband, Brad Cunningham, was the likely suspect. But there was no solid evidence linking him to the crime. He married again, for the fifth time, and his stunning new wife, a physician named Sara, adopted his three sons. They all settled down to family life on a luxurious estate. But gradually, their marriage became a nightmare....
In this gripping account of Cheryl's murder, Ann Rule takes us from Brad's troubled boyhood to one of the most bizarre trials in legal history, uncovering multiple marriages, financial manipulations, infidelities, and monstrous acts of harassment and revenge along the way. Dead By Sunset is Ann Rule at her riveting best.

Editorial Reviews Review

Another chilling and creepy book from the reigning queen of true-crime, Ann Rule, who also penned the riveting bestseller Small Sacrifices. Here, we encounter a charismatic con-artist accused of brutally bludgeoning his wife and follow his case through to its strangely redemptive end.

From Publishers Weekly

Brad Cunningham was handsome, brilliant, a high-school hero in his native Seattle, a football star at the University of Washington. His family background was unusual, with a Native American mother of whom he was ashamed and an Anglo father who was contemptuous of women. As an adolescent, Brad was violent with his sisters and his mother. This pattern continued in his first, second and third marriages but reached its apogee with his fourth wife, Cheryl Keeton, a highly successful lawyer by whom he fathered three sons. When their marriage collapsed and she sought custody of their children, Brad, a bank executive, threatened her; in September 1986, she was found bludgeoned to death in her car on an Oregon highway. The case remained unresolved until Cheryl Keeton's estate filed a civil suit for damages against Brad in 1991. A criminal trial followed in 1993, in which Brad was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 22 years. Rule (Small Sacrifices) provides a perceptive character analysis of a malignant, self-centered, charismatic con artist. It's a chilling, haunting portrait. Photos not seen by PW. 125,000 first printing; True Crime Book Club main selection; Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild and Mystery Guild featured alternates; Reader's Digest Nonfiction Condensed Book Club selection; Tri-Star/NBC-TV miniseries to air in November.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 720 KB
  • Print Length: 544 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0671001132
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (February 15, 2000)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FBJHU8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,657 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The long beatification June 6, 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Ann Rule's characters usually fall into three categories: (1) victim-saints; (2) virtuous, persevering law enforcement officials; (3) heartless, wicked sociopaths. But in "Dead by Sunset" the author fooled me. The last section of the book concerns the murderer's trial which Rule actually attended, and it's got the spit and sparkle of real life. The dialogue between the defendant, who was acting as his own lawyer (he had not gone to law school or passed the bar) and the rather acerbic judge, is priceless. The old saw about 'the lawyer who tries his own case has a fool for a defendant' is proven to be doubly true in the case of Brad Cunningham, who tended to ramble tediously on about the state of his finances even though he was on trial for murder. When Cunningham decided to take to the witness stand and cross-examine himself, he made himself fair game for the prosecution and a legal dilemma for the judge. Here is a sample of the defendant versus judge dialogue, after Judge Alexander repeatedly warns Cunningham about asking improper questions:

"'I'm walking just on the edge,' Brad countered defiantly.

"'And you're stumbling over...'

"Brad had always argued with anyone who did not agree with him. Stubbornly he was arguing now with Judge Alexander.

"'This is why we go to law school, Mr. Cunningham,' the judge said. 'It's a sophisticated concept.'"

The first 464 pages of this book are standard Ann Rule. A beautiful, brilliant attorney marries a psychopath and suffers dreadfully for her choice of mate.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Local Thriller July 5, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mind grabbing book that makes you think! August 19, 1999
By A Customer
Ann Rule's coverage of this story is out-standing!! My best friend is Cheryl's step sister and she suggested that I read this book. I couldn't believe that this monster grew up and went to school across the street from my grandmothers house. My own father remembers knowing this guy and it's truely shocking when you realize that this is someone who is somehow connected to you in a round about way. The book is so enticing! It makes you sad,angry,curious,terrified and so much more. I appreciate the people who would not let this man get away with what he did. Kudo's to our legal system and the men and women who fought for justice. Ann Rule is a wonderful Author who's books capture the truth and feeling in the stories that she writes about. Any book by her is worth reading over and over and over again.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT HAPPENS TO A DREAM DEFERRED? September 3, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars American Dream gone beserk August 24, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Ann Rule portrays Bradley Cunningham as a man of humble origins who, in becoming self-made and prosperous, creates a charming persona behind which a criminally irresponsible, mendacious, and violent man resides. As Cunningham lives more and more by the lie of this persona, in his private life, especially with his girlfriends, wives, and children, he becomes incrementally more and more autocratic. Rule diligently chroncicles the descent of Bradley Cunningham into hell, a hell where fair is foul and foul is fair, and chroncles the lives of the women he seduces into his nightmare. The book climaxes when Cunningham is put on trial for murdering Cheryl Keeton, and we see that when as fine a vision as the American Dream goes beserk in the imagination of Bradley Cunningham, he won't be satisfied until he brings down American Justice along with it. It's a compelling and very disturbing true crime story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, dragged on at times due to...
Great story, dragged on at times due to seemingly undergraduate (paper must be this long) filler. Fascinating, and scarily true.
Published 16 days ago by LM
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great retelling- even though you knew from the beginning Brad was guilty- still riveting!
Published 29 days ago by Wendy Stroud
5.0 out of 5 stars This was one of he best of Ann Rule's books
This was one of he best of Ann Rule's books. It was just one continuous story which I really could not put down!
Published 1 month ago by Ann D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I think that this is the best book so far, that Ann Rule has written. She presented this sad story with great enthusiasm. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rebecca Bradshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Everything was excellent.
Published 1 month ago by Karen Storm
5.0 out of 5 stars very good
Very good book. I would recommend for reading. The book held your interest. This is a Fascinating book about a manipulative man.
Published 1 month ago by Barb Renner
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
No photos in ebook.
Published 2 months ago by Jenne Chalfant
5.0 out of 5 stars Grabber!
From beginning to end. A thriller.
Published 2 months ago by Joann Mayes
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
I am always impressed by the author's attention to detail. The story was riveting and her tapestry of weaving the tale was impressive. A must read for crime buffs.
Published 2 months ago by Vicki
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down.
I couldn't put this down as Ms. Rule develops the character of this twisted man.
I downloaded a sample of his book in retaliation and there were so many self accolades, i got... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Cheryl A. Nicholas
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More About the Author

I am an author of true-crime books, and I'm now working on my 25th and 26th: NO REGRETS and TOO LATE TO SAY GOODBYE. I have lived in the Seattle Area for many years. Before that, I grew up in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and lived in Texas, Oregon, and near Niagara Falls, N.Y. I always wanted to be a police officer--because my grandfather was a sheriff in Michigan. I joined the Seattle Police Department when I was 21, worked a year and a half, but then I couldn't pass the eye test. After five years of rejection slips, I finally sold my first article for $35! Soon, I found my niche when I began writing for the fact-detective magazines like TRUE DETECTIVE in 1970, and I wrote more than a thousand homicide cases, and went to hundreds of trials. My first book, THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, was about Ted Bundy, but, amazingly, I had the book contract to write about an unknown killer six months before Bundy was identified as the "Ted Killer." And I had known him all along, and didn't realize it; he was my partner in the all-night shift at Seattle's Crisis Clinic! Oddly, I started out writing humor, but unless you are Erma Bombeck, Garrison Keillor, or Fanny Flagg or Dave Barry, it's hard to make a living. Now I write humor for fun and for my friends.

I graduated in Creative Writing from the U of Washington, with minors in criminology and psychology. I also have an AA degree in law enforcement, taking classes in crime scene investigation, arrest, search and seizure, crime scene photography and forensic science. I've lectured in seminars all across America to detectives, prosecutors, and even at the FBI Academy. My subjects have been serial murder, high profile offenders, and women who kill. I write two books every year--one hardcover single-case book, and one Ann Rule's True Crime Files original paperback. Although people tend to think I write only about the Northwest, I go wherever the cases are most interesting. I've written about murder cases in Florida, Georgia, New York, Kansas, Texas, Hawaii, and California, too.

I raised five children on my own--starting out with articles for baby care magazines, Sunday features, true confessions, and then "slicks" like Cosmopolitan, Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Reader's Digest. Now, my children are grown.

I like to keep in very close touch with my readers, and I'm able to do that with a weblog and a guestbook on my website pages at This also gives readers a chance to talk with each other, and its' a pretty lively spot--as I'm sure this page will be.

To choose a book subject, I weed through about 3,000 suggestions from readers. I'm looking for an "anti-hero" whose eventual arrest shocks those who knew him (or her): attractive, brilliant, charming, popular, wealthy, talented, and much admired in their communities--but really hiding behind masks.

I'm a reader myself, and I always have several books going at once--one upstairs, downstairs, near the bathtub, in my car, and beside my hammock (in the summer, of course!)

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