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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2000
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
on December 17, 1999
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
on May 13, 2002
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
"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. Diane shot herself in the arm after shooting Cheryl, seven, Christie, eight, and Danny, three, at point blank range. Of course the invented story made no sense at all. Why would a gunman shoot three small children and not kill Diane who could identify him?

Diane wanted to get rid of the children because her married boyfriend Lew didn't want kids. The children, of course, are the "small sacrifices". A year after the shooting Diane was finally indicted and brought to trial. As always, Rule is a hands-on writer and she sat perhaps two feet from Diane during much of the trial. She can describe how Diane at one point along with the people in the courtroom was listening to "Hungry Like a Wolf" the song that had been playing in her car when Diane shot her children. Diane sat there at the side of her lawyer, merrily snapping her fingers and juggling her leg in time to the music, apparently oblivious she was on trial for murder.

While her little girl, Christie, who barely survived being shot in the chest twice, was on the witness stand the courtroom was eerily silent, hushed, almost frozen with horror. The little girl had one paralyzed arm and her speech was halting but she named her own mother as the shooter and the killer of her little sister. Up there on the witness stand she struggled with her emotions and practically everyone in the courtroom except Diane was in tears. Rule described Diane's strange yellow or green eyes and her inappropriate laughter. There is something extremely discordant about Diane Downs.

Rule delves deeply into the psyche of Diane Downs. Diane had lamented over her unhappy childhood and abuse by her father. But most children who are abused do not become killers. Diane is thought to have three serious personality disorders: narcissism, histrionic disorder and she's a sociopath. Like her soul mate Ted Bundy, she is always on stage and the center of that stage. She cares absolutely nothing about anybody, and her obsession with Lew, the married man she shot her children for, is just that: an obsession. Diane believes that people exist to serve her without her giving anything in return. She is and was an empty shell devoid of sympathy, empathy and love. The only love she is capable of is for herself and she has no conscience. Like all sociopaths, she's an accomplished liar. An empty shell.

Ann Rule keeps you reading her page -turner, gasping at the horror and you may even shed a tear or two over those children, wounded so long ago by their own mother. The evil in Diane is balanced by the good of people involved in the case: the doctors who struggled to save the childrens' lives, the detectives who labored on the case, the Slaven family who cared for the children during the trial, and especially the prosecuting attorney, Fred Hugi, who adopted Christie and Danny after Diane was convicted and sent to jail, brought them up with love and sent them to college. (Christie is now married and has a baby boy of her own. Danny, although in a wheelchair, is a cheerful, successful computer whiz).

Diane, Rule emphasizes, is not insane because a psychosis (insanity) can be treated by therapy and medication and can be reversed. There is hope for an insane person, but the sociopath will never change. He bears the mark of Cain which will brand him for life. You could almost say that the tattoo of a rose Diane has on her shoulder is the mark of Cain.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2000
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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2004
Well written and very informative about the criminal case of Diane Downs. This is truly a sad story of a lost woman who could not see the value in herself and much less in her own children. Ann Rule portrays a very detailed account of what it was like to be Diane Downs from being molested as a young girl to being a lost adult woman. Diane Downs was rejected by her then lover, a married coworker. This (in my view) was nothing personal, he just knew he needed to go back to his wife and dealing with children wasn't something he was prepared to do. Diane's inablity to handle "rejection" created an obssession with him and she believed that if she got rid of the kids then he'd come back to her. Diane Downs is a confused young woman with no direction in life who has not developed any depth to her personality. Even after she is arrested she continues her bizarre self destructive behavior and starts up a pen-pal relationship with the sick psycho-killer known as the I-5 killer (another one of Ann Rule's books).

This book is great to start with if you are not familiar with Ann Rule.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 3, 2000
E. Diane Downs was truly a sociopath. Bitter over an unhappy past with a cruel and controlling father, Diane literally jumped into marriage with the unsuspecting Stephen Downs in 1972. That union produced two daughters and a son.
Daughter Cheryl Lynn, born in 1976 was Diane's scapegoat. Photographs of the girl reveal a somber, unsmiling face and quotes attributed to Cheryl Lynn point out a very sad life with the demented Diane.
Diane was truly demented. She burned down the family trailer with the idea of raising insurance money. She wanted to start a surrogate mother clinic and has a daughter for a couple. (That lucky little girl need never have to worry about having contact with Diane)! Her lack of ability to bond with the newborn and being able to just let her be taken by others underscored her lack of ability to love or feel bonded to anybody.
Her son and daughters knew that all too well. In May of 1983, Diane shot the three children in her car. Cheryl Lynn died, Christie was partially paralyzed and son Daniel remains paralyzed from the waist down. Diane played "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran, a song that appeared to describe her accurately. When Diane and her children are rushed to the hospital, she claims a shaggy haired stranger (a classic cliche) shot them all, herself included. (Diane had a superficial arm wound).
Her behavior during and after the shootings is disgusting, to say the least. She has an affair. A daugther is born of this union and fortunately, the child was raised by a family who refused to have any contact with Diane who was on trial at the time of the baby's birth. Over the years, I have prayed for all of her surviving children and hoped that they would have good lives.
Diane sang, joked and laughed during her trial. That behavior brought back tones and echoes of the infamous 1970-1971 Charlie Manson trials when Manson's co-defendants sang, danced and drew pictures of Charlie during their trial. Diane was truly evil.
It is interesting to note that Diane's song of choice was the early 1980s Duran Duran hit, "Hungry Like the Wolf." Like a lone Alpha Wolf, Diane appears to hunt her prey, always choosing prey that cannot fight her off and ends up consuming her prey. Two children are paralyzed. One is dead. Diane remains "Hungry Like the Wolf."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2001
This was the first book, written by Ann Rule, that I ever read. I have since read all of Rule's books. It is the ONLY book that I have purchased, for myself, four times. (I keep "loaning" them, never to get them back). Whenever asked for a good read, this book is my first recommendation. I also suggest that after reading, put the book away, then re-read it.
All of the other reviews, pretty much tell how riveting the story is, how horrible the crime is, how selfish, the woman who had everything, was. The three beautiful children, unfortunately born to Diane Downs, were truely meant to be sacrifced so that Downs could have what she wanted. Period. What she got was prison. The most horrible thing about "Small Sacrifices" is, it's all true.
Ann Rule knows how to tell the story, makes the reader want to keep reading, and knows how to make you KEEP thinking about the innocent ones in this book.
I read this book about once a year, even if it means I have to go out and buy another one!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2000
This book kept me interested all the way through,even through the trial which is sometimes the hardest part to stay interested in.
What Diane Downs did to her three children is the most evil thing a mother could ever do.For the sake of 'love' and sex this woman sought to dispose of her children as if they were rubbish being thrown away.To shoot and kill one child and to disable the other two defies belief.Downs has to be the most selfish person you are likely to come across.
The story of the 'shaggy haired stranger' was at most,translucent and this dispicable womans' actions after the shootings leaves you shaking your head in wonder as the story unfolds.
What really stands out to me were things like this:At the hospital Diane Downs laughs and jokes about having health insurance,moans about having her injury pictures taken as she is wearing no makeup,makes no effort to see the children who are only a few rooms away and in a phone call to her ex lover the day after the shooting she all but chats about the weather before casually mentioning that one of her children is dead and the other two may not live!Come on,who does she think she is fooling!
Diane Downs is a very manipulative coldhearted woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.She is not interested in anything or anyone else but herself and getting what she wants.This woman is pure evil,there is no other word for it. This book is excellently written.It tells a tale of greed and horror and that of three little children whose lives were shattered by the actions of the one person who should have done anything to save them.My mother would die for me.Would yours?Diane Downs had no intention of doing that!I find it hard to believe that anyone who reads this book would not be moved by it.You will be fascinated,angered,horrified and saddened by this story which is told in true Ann Rule style.Buy this book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2009
This book is probably Ann Rule's best.

The ghastly Diane Downs, an advertisement for sterilization, has children to fulfil her neurotic needs. When they turn out to have needs of their own that conflict with her love life, she shoots them.Fortunately, two of the children survive & are rescued from her skewed version of "care."

The story has been extremely well researched, with the author searching out every small fact to try to make sense of the truly senseless. The long section on the trial is completely mesmerizing, I felt that I was there.

Ann Rule very commendably tries to find reasons for Diane's awful life. She is obviously deeply damaged (perhaps by incest), but of course the majority of survivors of abuse don't shoot their children.

It's hard to overcome automatic repulsion for her actions,especially as a mother of four children but in the interests of being fair I do have a few quibbles.

The various truly horrible men she involved herself with are given a free pass from responsibility for their behaviour. The double standard is alive & well in this book, with Diane being castigated for sexual behaviour that is presented as acceptable for the men.

It's also hard to read of people being aware of how the children were being treated & doing very little or nothing to help them. Their useless father takes the cake here.

It would be wonderful to have a new edition of this book, with updates on what's happened in the years since the crime. In the end it's good to know that Diane has no chance of ruining any more children's lives.
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