Author: Ron Franscell; c.2019, Prometheus Books; $18; 314 pages
You were head over heels.
That’s how you felt the first time you saw your beloved: gobsmacked, twitterpated, over-the-moon in love. You couldn’t wait to see him. She was the star in your sky. You’d do anything to put a smile on that face – even if, as in the new book “Alice & Gerald” by Ron Franscell, it meant murder.
No one would’ve ever thought to call Gerald Uden “lucky in love.”
Married and divorced multiple times, Gerald considered himself somewhat of a ladies’ man but, while it was true that he cut a fine figure, he was more known for being odd and rather impulsive. Impulsiveness was how he got his first three wives but his fourth, Alice, was the love of his life.
There was one little problem, though: Gerald’s third wife, Virginia, and her two young boys – children Gerald had adopted – were still around, and merely mentioning them enraged Alice. Oh, how Alice hated Virginia!
And so, because if “Alice was happy, life was easier. And bad things happened when Alice wasn’t happy,” Gerald lured his third wife and their sons to a quiet dip in the road and he put a bullet into each of their heads.
After Virginia didn’t return home that chilly Wyoming night, her mother, Claire Martin, called the police to report Virginia missing. It wasn’t like “Gin” to up and leave; she never was the impulsive sort. When Claire called Gerald to ask if he’d seen Virginia, he denied it but there was something wrong. Claire could tell.
Following the murders, Gerald hid the three bodies in an old mining cave, believing that nobody would ever find them there but authorities had started searching for the missing trio and he got nervous. And so, by writing and sending to Claire fake telegrams with Virginia’s signature, Alice worked to deflect the police investigation. She’d make the police forget all about Virginia. Alice knew how to cover up a murder because she’d done it before, right after she shot her third husband in the head…
Let’s hope you have a sweater handy; a nice, cozy one. You’ll need it, because “Alice & Gerald” is a very chilling book.
The reason isn’t the story’s alone. It’s also in the telling of it, which Franscell does by swinging from cowpoke to neutral bystander to droll City Guy and back again, using subtle (and not-so-subtle) sarcasm here, small observations there, and a wonderful nose for occasional absurdity. This mixture in narration, the expected police procedural parts, and Franscell’s wider timeline all give readers a respectful, comfortable insider’s feel for what happened – and yet, though you’ll know how this story turns out, he leaves plenty of room for those moments that make you jump.
For true-crime fans, this book’s a no-brainer. It’ll also appeal to anyone who enjoys a mystery set in the West, or for fans of a plain good tale. If that’s what you need, then head for the shelves: “Alice & Gerald” will knock you off your feet.