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Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal Mass Market Paperback – November 20, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ann Rule is the author of thirty New York Times bestsellers, all of them still in print. Her first bestseller was The Stranger Beside Me, about her personal relationship to infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A former Seattle police officer, she knows the crime scene firsthand. For more than two decades, she has been a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime. She lives near Seattle. Visit her at AuthorAnnRule.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

December 4, 2004

The shriek of sirens piercing the chill December morning on Bogan Gates Drive was almost as alien as the thackety-thackety of helicopters overhead would be. This quiet street in Buford is a relatively new part of an upscale neighborhood, home to young and middle-aged professionals and their families. The houses here have mostly red-brick façades with glossy black shutters, not unlike homes in Atlanta's more affluent districts, but on a smaller scale. In 2004, the average price of a home in Bogan Gates was between $200,000 and $300,000 -- the homes would cost twice that in Denver or Seattle or Philadelphia. Buford is an ideal suburb for those who commute the thirty-five miles to Atlanta: large enough with over 14,000 residents to merit local shopping centers, but small enough to dissolve the tension that comes with driving the I-285 beltway that encircles Atlanta with bumper-to-bumper traffic. And Bogan Gates Drive itself is an oasis of serenity with its manicured lawns and colorful gardens. Children play under the watchful eyes of all the adults there. If some stranger should insinuate himself into this enclave, he would not go unnoticed.

A negative note, at least for some, is that close neighbors tend to know each other's secrets. There isn't the anonymity that exists in apartment buildings in large cities. Neither is there the loneliness that city dwellers sometimes feel. Even so, some families on the street have secrets that none of their neighbors could possibly imagine.

That doesn't stamp Bogan Gates as different; every community has its mysteries and even its surprising secrets. When reporters for television news and local papers sweep into such places, they are certain to obtain instant interviews with shocked residents who invariably say: "Something like that just doesn't happen here -- not in our neighborhood!"

But, of course, it does.

On this day in early December, Bogan Gates Drive just happened to be the site of one of the most horrific crimes in Georgia.

The town of Buford, its name as Southern as a name can be, sits close to Lake Lanier. This popular vacation spot's waters meander for mile after mile, cutting channels deep and wide into the shoreline, leaving inlets that resemble the bite marks of a giant alligator. Buford is surrounded by other small townships: Flowery Branch, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, Duluth, Oakville, Alpharetta. It is very close to the border between Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. Forsyth County once had a reputation as one of the most racially prejudiced areas in America. A sign beside the road there could read "Boiled Peanuts," or it might say, "Nigger, Get Out of Forsyth County, Before Sunset." But no longer. Oprah Winfrey once broadcast her show from Forsyth County, pulling aside the blinds to reveal raw prejudice. Today, those with set ideas about racial disparities have learned not to voice them aloud.

Buford, in Gwinnett County, is far more in tune with the twenty-first century, a bedroom community tied to a thriving metropolis. Young families who live there can enjoy relatively small-town warmth, or drive to Atlanta for more cosmopolitan pleasures.

The family who lived at 4515 Bogan Gates Drive fit comfortably into Buford's demographics. Dr. Barton T. Corbin, forty, had recently moved his dental practice to Hamilton Mill -- less than ten miles away. His wife, Jennifer "Jenn" Corbin, taught at a preschool in the Sugar Hill Methodist Church. Although Dr. Corbin's efforts to build a new practice often kept him away from home, and Jenn was the parent who spent more time with their children, they both seemed to dote on their sons, Dalton, seven, and Dillon, five. They went to the boys' ballgames and participated in school events at Harmony Elementary School, where Dalton was in second grade and Dillon in kindergarten.

Married almost nine years, the Corbins appeared to have all those things that most young couples long for: healthy children, a lovely home, admired professions, close family ties, and myriad friends.

Jenn Corbin, thirty-three, was tall and pretty, a big-boned blond who usually had a smile on her face, no matter what worries might lie behind it. Bart was also tall, taller than Jenn by two or three inches, but beyond that he was her opposite. His hair was almost black, his eyes even darker, his pale skin surprisingly dotted with freckles. He was a "gym rat" whose muscular physique showed the results of his predawn workouts. When Bart was dealing with a problem, however, or worrying over his finances, he lost weight rapidly and became angular and bony. Then his cheekbones protruded and his profile turned sharp as an ax, almost Lincolnesque.

Many of his female patients found Bart strikingly handsome; some others were a little put off by his intensity. But most of Bart Corbin's patients seemed to like him. He often traded dental care with his personal friends for some service he needed, using an old-fashioned barter system.

To an outsider, the Corbins' marriage appeared solid -- her sunniness balancing his sometimes dark moods. In truth, tiny threadlike fissures had crept silently through the perceived foundation of their marriage, weakening its structure from the inside out until a single blow could send it crumbling.

Most people who knew the Corbins weren't aware that Jenn had fled their home shortly after Thanksgiving of 2004, and that a divorce might be forthcoming. Those who did know were shaken that "Bart" and "Jenn" might be splitting up. To the world, they were a team, their very names strung together like one word when their friends talked about them. Bart-n-Jenn.

Jenn Corbin was responsible for that. She had struggled to maintain the façade that kept the foundering state of her marriage virtually invisible to the outside world. For at least eight years she continued to hope that she and Bart could somehow work out their problems and build a happy relationship. If they did accomplish that, there was no reason for anyone to know. If their union was irretrievably broken, people would know soon enough.

And know they would because, by the fall of 2004, Jenn had given up. Her parents, Narda and Max Barber, and her sisters, Heather and Rajel, knew that, although even they were reluctant to accept it. Jenn had tried to understand her husband and to make allowances for behavior she didn't understand. She had forgiven Bart for betrayals most other women would not put up with. It was he who had laid down the ground rules in their marriage, and she had accepted them. She hadn't gotten married with the idea that if it didn't work out, they could always get divorced. She and her sisters were born to parents who had married only once -- and who had just happily celebrated their fortieth anniversary.

Jenn Corbin was one of those people whom almost everybody liked, probably because she liked everybody. She thought of others before she took care of herself and she protected her small sons like a lioness would, doing everything she could to be sure they were serene and happy. She was the same way with the youngsters she taught in preschool at the church. She had a warm lap and sheltering arms when their tears came.

Jenn was a Barber before she became a Corbin, raised in a loving and a very close family. When she and Bart married, her family had opened up the circle and welcomed him in. Except for his occasional flashes of temper, Bart was a lot of fun and he happily participated in holi-day celebrations, outings on the Corbins' and Barbers' adjoining houseboats, or on picnics and trips. They all shared the kind of extended family loyalty that isn't seen very often.

Although Bart's mother, Connie, and his brothers -- Brad, Bart's twin, and Bobby -- didn't spend much time with the Barbers, their connection was amiable enough, if a bit distant. Bart's father, Gene Corbin, had remarried and wasn't often in touch.

The Corbins' marital difficulties didn't stem from in-law problems. Rather, Bart's new dental clinic was struggling, and a renewal of old issues had left their marriage on the precarious edge of oblivion. But with Christmas only three weeks away, Jenn was looking forward to finishing the decorations on a tall tree that sat in the Corbins' formal dining room. Her little boys shouldn't have to miss out on Santa Claus because of an adult situation that wasn't their fault. She was halfway through with the tree, and she had stacked boxes nearby that held her treasured sentimental ornaments, new ones she had purchased during the year, and, most precious, Dalton's and Dillon's handmade art work they were so proud of. Jenn already had wrapped and hidden lots of presents for the boys.

It was 7:30 on this Saturday morning, December 4, 2004, when Steve and Kelly Comeau, who lived across the street from the Corbins' house, were startled to hear someone knocking at their front door. They were still in bed; Steve had been out late helping a friend hang pictures, and on the way home he had stopped to help a stranded driver change a flat tire. When he answered the door, he looked down to see Dalton Corbin, age seven. Dalton's face was red and his cheeks were streaked with tears. He wore pajamas and appeared to be very upset.

"My mom isn't breathing," Dalton said. "My daddy shot my Mommy -- I need you to call 911."

Skeptical, Steve Comeau nevertheless called 911, while Kelly followed Dalton across the street to check on Jenn Corbin. She didn't even think about danger to herself, because she doubted that Dalton could really have seen what he said he had. Jenn was most likely just sleeping heavily.

The Corbins' overhead garage door was open. Kelly hurried beneath it, found that the door to the kitchen was unlocked, and headed down the hall toward the master bedroom, calling out Jenn's name. There was no answer.

There was light in the bedroom, although Kelly couldn't remember later if it was daylight or from a lamp. She could see Jenn lying diagonally across the bed. It was an odd position, and Kelly felt a little shiver of alarm. She told herself that Jenn was only sleeping, and she reached out to ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (November 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743460510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743460514
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,480 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 www.annrules.com 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read Ann Rule's latest offering within a few days, it is that riveting, and heartbreaking. Ann Rule, who has given us past works of true crime, does an amazing job of piecing together the story of two women who were killed in cold blood for being involved with a man who could not bear losing them. What is even more amazing is that the two women died fourteen years apart - the first, dental student Dolly Hearn was found shot to death and her death was ruled as a suicide, and the second, Jennifer Corbin, young mother of two sons, also found shot dead, and initially believed as a suicide. Only with the sleuthing and investigative skills of the officer presiding over the investigation does the sinister truth surface - that both women were the victims of a ruthless killer, Bart Corbin. Ann Rule manages to convey the victims sympathetically, and their stories are told with great empathy. We feel for these two women who died senseless deaths just because the man in their lives could not bear the thought of losing them. It is also a portrait of a marriage gone bad, of emotional and psychological abuse that drives a young mother to pursue an online affair, only to find out towards the end of her life that even that one refuge from her failing marriage is a lie. This true crime account reads like a work of fiction, but unfortunately, is based on actual events, and it will shock and sadden. Nevertheless, it is a story that deserves to be read, for the world needs to 'hear' the victims' stories, and find relief in justice being served.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Ann Rule's meticulous research means that, as with all her books, we get an insight into the various personalities involved in the case. She's very skilled at pointing out the small personal quirk or even decorating style that makes us feel we know the victims & their killer.

Where the book doesn't work for me is that despite this insight & compassion, she resolutely maintains a good/bad, black/white view of the world that doesn't quite jell with the facts she reveals.

The killer, Bart Corbin, is so bad tempered, nasty, anal, & just plain crazy that it's hard to believe the two murdered women had anything to do with him.

The author is so busy maintaining the "good girl" personae of the two unfortunate victims that we learn little of why they were happy to embark on relationships with him. This, for me, trivializes the tragedy of their deaths. Relying heavily on relatives of the victims for information on the killer's personality seems unwise. Who could be impartial in such circumstances?

Despite the length of the book I learned little of the character & motivations of the killer. On the other hand, the persistence of the investigators in bringing him to justice is detailed in a fascinating & enthralling part of the story.

I'd recommend this book, but with reservations as given above.
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Format: Hardcover
I live in the Atlanta area and was very much aware of the media coverage of the Corbin case. Jennifer's death, as you will discover from the book, was first reported as suicide, but no one I knew believed this. Bart Corbin's callousness, not only toward his victims, but toward his children, is truly chilling, and Anne Rule paints a great portrait of two families who are tarnished by that callousness. These were lovely, compassionate women, and Anne Rule helps to see what a great loss their deaths were to their friends and families. At least Jennifer's death caused authorities to re-open Dolly Hearn's case; who knows how many more victims may have been saved by this? This book is, as another poster said, a real page-turner.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read Ann Rule occasionally because I like true crime. This is not her best or her worst, but as usual I pick out a few errors. Here is the biggest faux pas: (pg 354) MOST MEN IN JAIL AND PRISON DON'T HURT WOMEN AND TAKE A HARSH VIEW OF PRISONERS ACCUSED OF KILLING THEM. INMATES CHARGE WITH CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN OR CHILDREN WHO ARE HOUSED IN THE GENERAL POPULATION ARE PRONE TO ACCIDENTS FOR WHICH NO WITNESSES COME FORWARD. Where was Ann's editor when she submitted this? I worked at Montana State Prison and it is full of domestic offenders who have repeatedly hurt, abused and/or killed women. No that is not correct, a very LARGE percentage of men in prison hurt women. Typically other inmates don't like child molesters and target them, but so many inmates are guilty/convicted of domestic violence that those people are not typically a target. Give me a break, you have been writing crime novels for years, how could you have made such an ignorant statement?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Masterful storyteller Ann Rule has presented her millions of readers with another superb account from the true-crime annals, this one set in the burgeoning suburbs of Atlanta and the genteel, flowery city of Augusta. Victims Jenn Corbin and Dotty Hearn are brought to vivid, multi-dimensional life as we are drawn into this complex tale involving two murders more than a dozen years apart. The large cast of characters, including the extended families of both victims and killer, and the law enforcement officers and prosecuting team, are depicted with Rule's customary clarity, fairness, and depth.

Readers will find themselves turning pages deep into the wee hours, unable to put down this newest blockbuster from Ann Rule, the unrivaled best writer in her field.
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