I received this title for free in exchange for an unbiased review, and I honestly might not have read it otherwise. The description seemed a little . . . unspectacular, maybe? But from the first paragraphs it was clear that this story was in the hands of a stylist, a genuine writer instead of just a crime reporter. The opening completely grabbed me, and the story never flagged, never once slowed. If you read a lot of non-fiction crime books as I do, you know that isn’t all that common even in the good ones. The stories often drag in parts before picking up again a few chapters later. But the story of this alcoholic IHOP waitress, her fascinatingly immoral boss and the people they killed for the most mundane — and therefore horrific — of reasons kept my attention from beginning to end.

Perhaps it was the bizarre juxtaposition of fairly drab, hyper-normal people — this could literally have been about the waitress who served you your flapjacks the last time you were at an IHOP — with the unbelievably despicable and horrifying acts they committed that made it so compelling. Nothing against IHOP at all, of course — I’ve always enjoyed my meals there, and the waitresses all seemed like truly lovely, non-homicidal people. But the thought that these murderous conversations could have been taking place in the kitchen while I was wiping the last of the syrup off my plate with a pancake makes the whole sad, sordid story more personal and a lot more intriguing. Perhaps it was also the slow, inevitable slide that the characters took — going from one easily avoidable bad judgement call to another, going from being moms, lovers, waitresses and restaurant managers to being multiple murderers. It was like watching a multi-car crash in slow motion, from the moment the first average, everyday driver looked at their cell phone a moment too long, through the resulting collisions that envelop car after car, to the aftermath of unimaginable mechanical and human carnage. Whatever the reason, it all added up to one of the most unexpectedly compelling, well-written true crime stories I’ve read in a while. I’m also really glad I listened to it rather than reading it, because the narrator was excellent, and nicely suited to the material.

So if the description of this book looks at all interesting to you, I think you’ll enjoy it. If the description seems a little . . . unspectacular to you, I think you’ll enjoy it even more — the surprise certainly made an already great book even more enjoyable for me.