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Outside Valentine    by Liza Ward Amazon.com order for
Outside Valentine
by Liza Ward
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Outside Valentine is Liza Ward's first novel. It reads like a fifth or sixth, so easily is the reader caught up in the story and Ward's wonderful use of words. The author is the granddaughter of a couple who were murdered by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate on their three day Nebraska killing spree in the early 1950s.

Ward sits back and looks at the chilling young couple who changed so many lives in their short span of terror. She does it through the eyes of three separate persons the murdered couple's son Lowell, a young girl (Susan) who is intrigued by living in the same town in which the crime took place, and by Caril Ann Fugate herself. While it is a very chilling story in itself, what is more chilling is the lasting effects on so many people this crime spree had. We never really know what ramifications our own acts have on others until later in life. This story reveals the immediate effects, and leaves the reader to decide just how others not directly involved in the crimes had their lives turned around.

Ward's very sensitive telling of her grandparents' deaths is in itself a revelation. She treats the history as a novel, but has probably exorcised some of her own demons in the telling. Not only has she used a real life plot but has done it with grace and understanding. She has a talent for setting the stage and taking the reader through events as though she were relating her own story. I look forward to more writing from Liza Ward.

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