Deadly American Beauty: Beautiful Bride. Dark Secrets. Deadly Love.
by John Glatt
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Summary: Kristin Rossum was accused of murdering her husband to cover up both a love affair and her drug problem. This is an interesting story, even if it is told in a bargain basement true crime book.
Review: Deadly American Beauty recounts the story of Kristin Rossum, a pretty young woman who seemed to have it all. Rossum was raised in a stable family with two well-educated parents who were connected in conservative political circles. Kristin showed great talent in two disparate fields – ballet and the “hard sciences.” But, somewhere, she lost her way.
Amazing True Story
While in high school in Claremont, California, Rossum developed a drug problem. After recovering, she seemed to find her way by graduating from San Diego State University and marrying a young man named Greg de Villers. But Rossum was unhappy and she soon began an affair with a co-worker and returned to taking drugs. Greg threatened to expose her – then died a short time later.
As with all of the best true crime books, readers would not believe this tale if it were published as fiction. Author John Glatt deserves credit for writing some vivid depictions of the events in the case; for instance, the book opens with Rossum in the midst of a drug binge, heading to Tijuana to buy meth.
Along with a good plot, the book features some memorable characters. In Glatt’s description, Rossum certainly is unlikable – a narcissistic, lying, philandering, drug abusing murderer. Just as unlikable is her lover, Michael Robertson, who cheats on his wife; he also “cheats” on Rossum – while assuring her that she is his true love. Unfortunately, there are many questions about the degree to which both Robertson and Rossum participated in the murder and the unanswered questions will nag readers at the book’s close.
Glatt also describes the de Villers family, and Greg de Villers in particular. He does not allow readers to forget the pain that the de Villers family felt after the murders.
John Glatt – Political Commentator and Mind Reader
Unfortunately, Glatt makes some errors in presentation. One is that he constantly describes Kristin as attractive, which gets tiresome. Also, while – for the most part – the story “moves,” it loses momentum during Glatt’s discussion of some of the legal proceedings. Another drawback is that Glatt often tells readers what a person was thinking (even though he may not have interviewed the person). For instance –
Kristin… walked back to her hotel chased by television news crews, refusing to even acknowledge them. It was her fifteen minutes of fame, and she appeared as jaded to the reporters’ shouted questions as any movie star (p. 262).
Finally, Glatt repeatedly bashes the Rossums’ conservative politics. A typical passage states-
Kristin Rossum… the wild child daughter of a conservative academic who made his career demanding that society hold kids responsible for their trespasses – was going to be put on trial for murder (p. 231).
It’s safe to assume that Deadly American Beauty main appeal will be to true crime fans, not those seeking political commentary. Moreover, whatever one thinks of the Rossums’ politics, they were – even in Glatt’s account – decent parents. I feel a measure of sympathy for the Rossums, and for any family with a member accused of a horrible crime; Glatt should have have toned down some of his remarks.
If readers accept the idea that Deadly American Beauty is not a “deep” book, they can enjoy it. While author John Glatt is not Shakespeare, he does tell an interesting story.