Nikki from USA, California

M. William Phelps’s Obsessed: Obsession, Narcissism and Murder [Book Review]

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TRUE CRIME ANY TIME

As someone who enjoys true crime stories, whether it’s a TV show/series, movie of the week based on a true crime story or in book form, I will watch and/or read about it and take it in like there will be a test on it the next day. If the story is told right, you are either left guessing on who the perpetrator is or why someone committed the murder. I like the shows that keep you guessing on both fronts and a true crime book has to do the same thing.

I became, and still am, a fan of Ann Rule. This lady could write a true crime novel like nobody else. I also enjoyed the non-true crime mystery/murder books of Patricia Cornwell (All That RemainsPostmortemBody of Evidence) who wrote her stories in the first person context under the name of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who is a medical examiner. Rule’s books included The Stranger Beside Me (the story of Ted Bundy), Green River Running Red (about the Green River Killer), Too Late To Say Goodbye (about Bart Corbin who killed both his wives), and my favorite Everything She Every Wanted (the story of Pat Allison).

INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY CHANNEL

As mentioned, I enjoy true crime shows and a huge fan of the channel Investigation Discovery which is a channel dedicated to nothing but true crimes. Some of the shows on this channel are; Web of Lies, Deadly Women, Deadly Sins, Fatal Vows, Evil Kin, Deadly Devotion, Fear Thy Neighbor and A Stranger In My Home to name a few of their original on-going programs. I’m partial to Deadly WomanDeadly Sins, and Evil Kin. They also have a slew of new shows such as Murder Calls, Murder Choose Me, Vanity Fair Confidential, Your Worst Nightmare and my absolutely favorite A Crime To Remember. I recommend doing research on these shows, download the ID GO app from iTunes of Google Play, and watch these shows as well as other shows they have.

It’s from a number of these shows that I learned of true crime writer M. William Phelps. I think the first time I saw was on an episode of Deadly Women. After seeing him on a few episodes I did research on some his books and looked up reviews, some of which weren’t that good, to see if his books would be of interest to me. Because of the bad reviews I read,  I decided not to give his books a chance. We are now a few years past and he’s on more Investigation Discovery shows, or ID for short, and I’m becoming more and more interested in reading his books, despite some of the bad reviews I read.

REVIEW BEFORE I BUY, BUT STILL BUY

I began doing research on his books and ready synopsis to find out what grabs me as my first dive into he M. William Phelps arena of true crime novels and came across Obsessed and boy am I glad I ignored the 3.82 rating given to the book on Goodreads. I felt that if I based on what I was going to read of watch on other’s opinions, I wouldn’t be reading nor watching anything. Yes, I do take the bad reviews in account along with the good reviews and then form my own opinion after reading the book or watching the show.

I purchased the book on my Kindle and started reading straight away and was hooked immediately.

Synopsis of the book Obsessed: “Sheila Davalloo was young, attractive, and successful. When she started a new job at a cutting-edge research lab in Stamford, Connecticut, she met the man of her dreams. Nelson Sessler had no idea how violently Sheila would react when he began seeing a co-worker, Anna Lisa Raymundo. Sheila eliminated her rival in a bloody knife attack–and then turned her rage on another victim she saw as an obstacle to her passions. M. Williams Phelps recounts the riveting story of a white-collar love triangle gone horribly wrong. . .and the terrifying infatuation that drove one woman to kill”. (Source: Amazon)

JUST LIKE ANN 

As with Ann Rule, Phelps has a way of making you feel like you are there. His writing is simple and easy to read, even when incorporating the workings of police as well as talking about DNA gathering and forensic evidence. You know who did it, or you think you do, but you wonder why they committed the crime. My thoughts on murderers is when did logic and self control leave their minds?

We all have made the remark of wanting to kill someone, but how many of us mean it. How many of us would be so obsessed over someone or something that it cause us to think that taking a life is OK because, well in the end, we are going to get what we want, which is either that person we killed for or that thing we thought was worth killing for.

The book starts out with bang by explaining the scene in the victim’s apartment (Anna Lisa Raymundo). As for someone who knows the last thing I see or read will creep into my dreams, I had to stop reading the book (I started the book at night) and only agreed (with myself) to read the book during the day. That didn’t last long. Once I got past the description of the bloody scene and started in on the story this became my go-to book before turning out the lights for the night.

DESCRIPTION, DECEPTIONS, REVELATIONS

Phelps gives enough description of the characters without boring the readers, as he does with a place or a particular scene. He does, what I like to call, gives just enough information so you know what’s going on. Phelps also does a great job with the back and forth of past to present. He knows how and when to talk about someone’s past life without you forgetting what’s going on in their present life. He writes in a manner as if you’re watching a show. He gets your attention and then keeps you wanting more. Phelps knows how to give the background of Sheila Davolloo up bringing to where you are not sure how she became narcissistic and where could things have possibly gone wrong. We are privy to the fact that she was brought up in a strict Muslim household although being born in America, her family moved to Iran when she was two, but returned to the Americas when she was sixteen. We learn of her excellent education and a great job she acquires at a pharmaceutical company. We also learn of obsession with one man named Nelson Sessler, who also works at the same company. We also learn of Anna Lisa, whom Nelson was dating and more serious with while he was “dating” Sheila. We also learn of Paul Christos, who becomes Shelia’s gullible husband who soon becomes another obstacle in her way to be with Nelson, who incidentally, really doesn’t want to be with Shelia in that manner. He sees Shelia as someone to have sex with and nothing more. Anna Lisa was someone he would want to spend the rest of his life with and Sheila, as well as other women, were just his side activities.

Even though I had my strong suspicion on who killed Anna Lisa, there were times I wasn’t sure. Phelps kept you guessing while revealing who the killer is or giving strong indications of who it is. He makes you wonder how Paul could be so gullible and fall for Shelia’s lies like when she told him she had a mentally ill brother who was coming to visit and Paul had to leave the condo because her brother didn’t know she was married and it would cause problems for him. How could Paul fall for this lie on quite a few occasions, each one getting more and more outlandish. For instance, in one instance she told Paul he had take his computer, printer and any thing else that would show signs of a man being in the house with him to his hotel he stayed at on weekends. While reading this I’m wondering why isn’t Paul questioning Sheila. Why is Paul allowing Shelia to dictate what he does without fighting back or at best question her? This was part of the book I had to try to overlook or I would have been consumed with the “stupidity” of Paul. Side note, the brother Shelia was having over was really Nelson Sessler.

And the kicker to the whole thing is if it wasn’t for Shelia’s attempted murder on her husband Paul (you have to read how this came about) hadn’t happen, I don’t think they would have found out who killed Anna Lisa. Yet, once they found out, it took another 10 years for the trial to take place and the narcissism of the murderer to be put on display….by the murderer themselves.

I highly recommend this book to any true crime reader. If you’re missing the days of Ann Rule, you now have M. William Phelps to lean on.

Title: Obsessed
Author: M. William Phelps
Published: 4 March 2014
Publisher: Pinnacle
Pages: 512
Available formats: Paperback, ebook, audible
Available sites: AmazonBarnes and NobeliBooks

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Nikki from USA, California

Nikki from USA, California

Nikki Hoskin is the founder of The Opinionated Muse blog site which she produces content from movie and documentary reviews to book reviews (crime suspense or true crime). Nikki is also a podcaster who work can be found on Soundcloud. To get updates on Nikki's posts here, on her blog or her podcasts, follow her @nikkihoskin.
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