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Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder (Signet) Mass Market Paperback – July 5, 1988

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This searching analysis of the shooting of three children in Oregon by their mother devolves into a study of personality. In May of 1983, Diane Downs drove to a Williamette Valley hospital emergency room with her children, all gravely wounded; one did not survive the first hour, and the other two were disabled for life. Downs initially told of a "bushy-haired stranger" who had committed the crime, but frequently changed her story. Under police questioning she recalled her childhood with a cold, domineering father who abused her sexually, her weak mother, a rape by one of her bosses, her failed marriage and many men with whom she had sex. One of these men, whom she claimed to love, did not want children, and that may have prompted the crime, speculates the author. The greatest strength of this book is the exploration by ex-policewoman Rule (The Stranger Beside Me of the aberrant personality of Downs, who is now imprisoned and not eligible for parole until 2009.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Superb... the most riveting true-crime account since IN COLD BLOOD KIRKUS REVIEWS Vivid... extraordinary... a page turner New York TIMES BOOK REVIEW --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Signet
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (July 5, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451166604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451166609
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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!)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By One Fancy Angel on June 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I am going through another one of my "true crime" phases; my last phase was in the early to mid-80's, and this one has me buying every true crime book Amazon sells! I say this as context because no matter how many true crime books I read, Ann Rule always comes up on top in terms of authors and in terms of my interest in the book. She's really an artist in this genre. When reading this book, as with all of Ms. Rule's books, I sometimes had to counsel myself to be patient and slow down. Rule has a bit of Stephen King in her, and so her writing can be dense, words and details often packed as tightly as sardines in a tin. Unlike King, however, Rule never wastes a word. I have read so many true crime books with fascinating topics and such poor writing (and editing) that dramatic crime cases become dull. Not in this case! In this book, Rule is at her best. Her eye for detail and her exceptional skill at recreating the drama of the crime and the courtroom are at full tilt in Small Sacrifices. Her background/historical detail here is exquisitely done and incredibly thorough. This is probably my favorite Ann Rule book so far. I simply could not put it down, reading it in all manner of unlikely places! I imagine it's obvious that I highly recommend this book!
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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Carole Sabo on December 17, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anne Rule is a writer of uncommon intelligence and insight. In "Small Sacrifices," she tells the mesmerizing story of Diane Downs, a beautiful, brillient, sociopath, who commits the ultimate evil when she shoots her three children to gain the love of a married man. Anne Rule's insight into the personality of Downs is as horrifying as it is disturbing. I literally could not put the book down. Never have I read or heard of such a selfish, self-centered woman as Diane Downs. She never confesses to shooting her children, but her conduct at the trial is sickening. She taps her foot and smiles while listening to "Hungry Like the Wolf," the song that was playing in her car while she slaughtered her children; she laughs when she should cry, she cries when it benefits her. One daughter is dead, one has lost the use of her arm and speech, and the little boy is paralyzed. None of this horror seems to penetrate Diane. She has no feelings for her children's suffering. The detail in this book is fasinating. Anne Rule describes every bit of evidence and presents it in such a way as to keep the reader of the edge of her seat. A must read for all true crime buffs.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is truly one of Ann Rule's best true crime books. The story of Diane Downs is so shocking one cannot help but think, "Who could shot their own children in cold blood?" Ann Rule looks in depth at the life of Diane Downs to unearth the hidden motives of this murderess. This book is incredibly interesting to those who like the psychology behind criminal motives. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in true crime and the mind. It was definately a page turner that left me wanting more. Ann Rule has a website that keeps her fans up to date on the subjects of her books. You to can find out where Diane Downs is today.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Sharp TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 12, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"Small Sacrifices" was written over twenty years ago and it remains one of the greatest true crime stories of all time. Ann Rule is a first class writer. She is so well known for her true crime books that it's easy to forget that her writing- her writing style- is very fine indeed, full of elegant descriptions of the Pacific northwest that she knows so well, remarkable insights of the players on her stage and heavily flavored with almost unbearable suspense. The research required to pen "Small Sacrifices," which took three years to write, was staggering. The book is just as topical today as it was when it was written, and the tragic saga of one woman's unspeakable crime will forever tear at the reader's heartstrings.

Diane Downs shot all three of her children in the car and then dawdled along on the way to the hospital, giving the children time to die. Her little girl Cheryl died at almost once, "death so close behind her it could whisper in her ear" while Christie and Danny were heroically saved by the medical personnel at the hospital emergency ward, but both children were severely handicapped. Christie was so traumatized she sustained a stroke even though she was only 8 years old. She hovered "as tentatively as a butterfly's wings" at death's door before the team of frantically working doctors brought her back from the abyss. Little Danny at only three years old was shot in the spine and will be paralyzed for life from the waist down, but the heroic efforts of the doctors saved his life.

Diane concocted a story of a bushy haired man who suddenly appeared in the street ahead of her car and demanded the car, then shot all three children, a tale that did not convince the police assigned to her case.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mel on January 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading Ann Rule's Small Sacrifices I had to re-read it again. I could not believe this story was true. Above all I congradulate Ann Rule on excellent coverage of this tragic story. By the end of the book I have adopted Danny and Christie and feel the loss of Cheryl as if it were my own. I hope Diane never sees her children again and that she is never allowed into general population again for who knows what she is fully capable of ... after all this is a mother who tried to fulfill her own twisted obsession by killing her children.
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