Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Death On Ocean Boulevard by Caitlin Rother (Book Review)

Book Review

Death On Ocean Boulevard by Caitlin Rother
Publisher: Citadel Press
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Format: Paperback - 368 pages
               Audiobook: 12 Hours 11 Minutes
               Kindle: 2180 KB
               Nook: 2 MB
ISBN: 978-0806540894
ASIN (Audiobook): B08Y6317W3
ASIN (Kindle): B08F2W7V49
BNID: 978-0806540900
Genre: True Crime

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description:

Bestselling author Caitlin Rother explores the mysterious death of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, who was found hanging from a second-story balcony of her multimillionaire boyfriend's San Diego mansion in 2011. She was naked and gagged, with her ankles tied and hands bound behind her. On the door to her bedroom investigators found a hand-written message: "SHE SAVED HIM, CAN YOU SAVE HER." The death was deemed a suicide, but Rother reveals there's more to the story...

"I got a girl, hung herself in the guest house."

The call came on the morning of July 13, 2011, from the historic Spreckels Mansion, a lavish beachfront property in Coronado, California, owned by pharmaceutical tycoon and multimillionaire Jonah Shacknai. When authorities arrived, they found the naked body of Jonah's girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, gagged, her ankles tied and her wrists bound behind her. Jonah's brother, Adam, claimed to have found Rebecca hanging by a rope from the second-floor balcony. On a bedroom door in black paint were the cryptic words: SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER.

Was this scrawled message a suicide note or a killer's taunt? Rebecca's death came two days after Jonah's six-year-old son, Max, took a devastating fall while in Rebecca's care. Authorities deemed Rebecca's death a suicide resulting from her guilt. But who would stage either a suicide or a murder in such a bizarre, elaborate way?

Award-winning investigative journalist Caitlin Rother weaves stunning new details into a personal yet objective examination of the sensational case. She explores its many layers-including the civil suit in which a jury found Adam Shacknai responsible for Rebecca's death, and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department bombshell decision to reconfirm its original findings. As compelling as it is troubling, this controversial real-life mystery is a classic American tragedy that evokes the same haunting fascination as the JonBenet Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases. 

Book Trailer:

My Book Review:

In her latest novel, Death On Ocean Boulevard, investigative journalist / author Caitlin Rother takes the reader behind the scenes of a riveting true crime story for an in depth look at a highly publicized mystery death case set in picturesque Coronado, California.

On July 13, 2011, thirty-two year old Rebecca Zahau's naked body was found bound, gagged, and hanging from the second-story balcony of her multimillionaire boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai's San Diego mansion by his brother, Adam Shacknai. What ensues is an intricate and multi-layered story of Rebecca's mysterious death, an inept investigative process, and the ongoing suicide-murder debate that continues to befuddle the public for the past ten years since her death. 

Death On Ocean Boulevard is a riveting story that easily draws the reader in from the start, keeping them captivated as the author weaves a thoroughly intriguing and intricate recounting of a highly publicized true crime case. I remember seeing this case profiled on the NBC Dateline investigative / mystery show, so when I saw that the author was writing an in depth true crime novel based on this case, it peaked my interest and I knew that I had to read it.

You can't help but get drawn into this complicated, fascinating, and multi-layered story, it is a gripping account into the mysterious death of Rebecca Zahau, and whether her death was a suicide or a murder. The author provides the reader with a fascinating and richly detailed and in depth look into the back stories and lives of each participant; an extensive research of the shoddy investigative, legal and financial aspects of the case. 

After an extensive and determined investigation into this case, the reader follows the author's accounting of a haunting tale of one woman's tragic and senseless death, and the ongoing pursuit of her family to change the cause of death from suicide to undetermined, with the hope to reopen the investigation focused on a criminal case. In addition, the reader is also provided with information of Jonah Shacknai's six year old son Max's tragic accidental death while under the care of Rebecca two days before Rebecca's death, and the speculation that both deaths are either a coincidence or could be connected. 

The author provides an impartial account of the mysterious death, while leaving it up to the reader to form their own opinion on whether Rebecca's death was a suicide or a murder. After reading both sides of the suicide-murder debate, I found myself waffling back and forth on this debate, and I fear that this conundrum will never be resolved. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I loved the author's vivid description of Coronado's history, and the landmarks on this picturesque peninsula locale along the San Diego Bay. 

Death On Ocean Boulevard is a gripping and haunting account of a tragic and mysterious death that is a must read for all true crime fans.


About The Author

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored 14 books, ranging from narrative non-fiction crime to mystery and memoir. Her newest book is DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case (April 27, 2021). Her backlist includes HUNTING CHARLES MANSON; SECRETS, LIES, AND SHOELACES; LOVE GONE WRONG; DEAD RECKONING; THEN NO ONE CAN HAVE HER; I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU; NAKED ADDICTION; POISONED LOVE; BODY PARTS; TWISTED TRIANGLE; LOST GIRLS; WHERE HOPE BEGINS and MY LIFE, DELETED

A Pulitzer Prize nominee, Rother worked as an investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 19 years before quitting the news biz in 2006 to write books full-time. Her journalism has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Daily Beast. She has done more than 200 appearances as a crime commentator on TV, radio and podcasts, ranging from "20/20," "People Magazine Investigates," "Nancy Grace," and "Crime Watch Daily," to shows on HLN, Oxygen Network, Investigation Discovery, C-SPAN, XM Radio and PBS affiliates. She also works as a writing-research-promotions coach and consultant.

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