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The Latest: Readers, 'Take Care'; Giant still young

February 20, 2014
  • Young the Giant, "Mind Over Matter."
Young the Giant, "Mind Over Matter." (Don Leach, HB Independent )

I'll Take Care of You

Caitlin Rother

Pinnacle Books; 417 pages

The other month, after a school shooting in Colorado, the local sheriff declined at a press conference to identify the suspect by name. Doing so, he explained, would provide recognition to a person who "deserves no notoriety and certainly no celebrity."

Such is the dilemma of crime reporting. As one who has covered a massacre, I've faced it myself, and even a book like Dave Cullen's "Columbine," which thoughtfully examines the communal ripples of a tragedy, walks a fine line between condemning and trumpeting its subjects. Call a killer a blot on society if you will, but you're still expending ink on someone who might relish being called a blot on society in print.

Nanette Packard, who was convicted in 2012 of plotting the murder of Newport Beach businessman Bill McLaughlin, apparently lacked the media ambition of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, but it may take no longer than the cover and first page of Caitlin Rother's "I'll Take Care of You" to decide if you want to read her story. The cover, which features a sleek female half-portrait, prefaces the title with "A dangerous woman's seductive promise...," while the author's note describes Packard as "the woman who stars in this true-crime reality."

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True, that sentence goes on to label Packard "the spokesmodel for the greed and epidemic of materialism that have plagued our nation for years," but a star is a star, regardless. The simple truth is that if a book like this wasn't meant as entertainment, it wouldn't sport an embossed cover with the words "Includes Dramatic Photos" displayed prominently on the back.

Is the book entertaining, then? Yes and no. Rother, a prolific true-crime novelist who has reported for the Los Angeles Times and other publications, has an assured storytelling voice, and "I'll Take Care of You" builds tension — though not really suspense, since we know the case's outcome — as it shifts among the parties involved.

The novel opens with the 1994 slaying of McLaughlin, who had thrived in the pharmaceutical field before being gunned down at home by an intruder. His $1-million life insurance policy stood to go to Packard, his much younger fiancee, who had taken charge of much of his finances and, in Rother's portrait, had an insatiable lust for high living coupled with compulsive dishonesty.

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