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Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge, and Murder

Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge, and Murder

4.1 149
by Ann Rule

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"If anything ever happens to me...
find Ann Rule and ask her to write my story."

In perhaps the first true-crime book written at the victim's request, Ann Rule untangles a web of lies and brutality that


"If anything ever happens to me...
find Ann Rule and ask her to write my story."

In perhaps the first true-crime book written at the victim's request, Ann Rule untangles a web of lies and brutality that culminated in the murder of Sheila Blackthorne Bellush — a woman Rule never met, but whose shocking story she now chronicles with compassion, exacting detail, and unvarnished candor. Although happily ensconced in a loving second marriage, and a new family of quadruplets, Sheila never truly escaped the vicious enslavement of her ex-husband, multi-millionaire Allen Blackthorne, a handsome charmer — and a violent, controlling sociopath who subjected Sheila to unthinkable abuse in their marriage, and terrorized her for a decade after their divorce. When Sheila was slain in her home, in the presence of her four toddlers, authorities raced to link the crime to Blackthorne, the man who vowed to monitor Sheila's every move in his obsessive quest for power and revenge.

Editorial Reviews

Anne Rule, the reigning queen of true crime, scores yet again with this thrilling tale of murder and intrigue. When Sheila Blackthorne Bellush is murdered, her husband -- a man the victim had learned to mistrust and fear -- is instantly suspected. But first he must be caught, and that would prove to be difficult. As usual, Rule is adept at exposing the sadistic ruthlessness that lies behind the seemingly happy American home.
Maureen Corrigan
As only the most adept crime stories do, Every Breath You Take manages to absolve its readers from the guilt of reading about such gruesomeness by engaging us in higher-minded, rubber-gloved investigations into the fault lines lurking in the human psyche and the American landscape. Rule digs up details about Allen Blackthorne's disturbing childhood and early adult life that form a case study of the classic American con man crossed with the more exotic strains of the sociopath. It is an affecting, tense and smart true-crime story. Washington Post Book World
Publishers Weekly
The latest from respected true crime veteran Rule (And Never Let Her Go) walks readers through the tortured life and ugly murder of Sheila Bellush, a woman relentlessly pursued by her sexually obsessed ex-husband, Allen Van Houte. The crime scene is horrific: Bellush lies dead in the kitchen while her toddler quadruplets are left to walk naked through her blood. Bellush had long warned close friends that she feared her ex-husband's reprisals and went so far as to request "if I'm not here... find Ann Rule and have her write my story." Rule, in classic form, meticulously re-creates the prosaic lives of her characters, charting one woman's pleasantly humdrum existence undermined by a man bent on making a fortune though defaulting on bank loans and pedestrian cons, such as swindling family members. After he lured Bellush into his world of sexual play, she left him, and he hired a man to kill her. The subsequent fallout included a complex and lengthy inquiry by investigators. There are no surprises here for the reader, though some may enjoy Rule's examination of Van Houte's manipulative and predatory nature. Essentially, this account is too long for its limited subject matter. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
CRIME Rule, a former police officer, investigates another cold-blooded murder. This one has an unusual origin: the doomed woman, suspecting her eventual demise, tells a relative to contact Rule in case she dies suddenly. Every Breath You Take points to the perpetrator, so it is the narrative skill that hooks us. From a much longer book, this abridgment's brisk pace is well calculated for audio, with Blair Brown's straightforward narration. The tale involves wife and child abuse, kinky sex (no details provided), and fortunes made and squandered on the wrong things. Will the evil man who specializes in colossal deception in the end slip through the legal net? Strong as fiction, these hard facts have been researched. Definitely recommended for popular true-crime collections. Gordon Blackwell, Eastchester, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bestselling true-crime specialist Rule (Bitter Harvest) certainly has her fans, but here her leering, hyperventilating style is merely distasteful. The story at its center is tragic. Sheila Bellush met handsome, slippery Allen Blackthorne, fell in love, and married him when she was much too young. Allen turned out to be trouble. He beat her, he cross-dressed, he ripped off her parents and everyone around him. Eventually, Sheila got away, but years later Allen tracked her down and had her murdered; he was caught, convicted, and went to jail. In between, Allen became a millionaire, Sheila had quadruplets, they both remarried, and everyone moved to San Antonio. Rule doesn't omit a single tawdry detail; between the two of them, Allen and Sheila have so many dissipated relatives and face so many assorted disasters that it's impossible to keep them all straight. Any sense of reality gets lost in this bloated, exaggerated, highly condescending retelling, which reads less like nonfiction than the script for a made-for-TV movie. Rule's claim that Sheila's sister sought her out and told her Sheila had wanted her to write about the case seems, to put it mildly, self-aggrandizing. Exploitative and sad.

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Pocket Books
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4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.40(d)

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Author's Note

In my three decades of writing about actual crimes, only once have I been personally involved in a case before I wrote about it. That, of course, was the story of Ted Bundy, who had been my partner at Seattle's Crisis Clinic a few years before he was exposed as a merciless serial killer. During the years I knew him, I had no more knowledge of the man behind the "mask" than anyone else who interacted with him. Indeed, I had a contract to write a book about an unknown killer—my first book contract—only to find out I would be writing about my friend.

Now, twenty years after that almost incomprehensible coincidence, another singular circumstance has touched me, making this book much more than the recounting of a tragedy that echoes and re-echoes in the lives of so many people. In a sense, I was chosen by the victim herself to tell her story, even though we never spoke, never met, and when I read about her fate, I had no reason to believe that we had any connection at all.

Her name was Sheila Bellush, and she was the age of my daughters. The premonition that haunted her for the last ten years of her life finally found her in Florida. Before that, she lived in San Antonio, Texas, and in Hawaii. I had never been to those places. My home territory has been the northwest since the mid-'50s—Oregon and then Washington.

My father's lifelong wish was to have a homestead in Oregon, a house high on a hill that overlooked trees, fields, and rivers. He found his beloved forty acres south of Salem, Oregon. For the last thirty years of their lives, my parents lived there on a ranch where the only sounds beyond the wind in the fir trees were the cries of hawks and eagles and the occasional cougar. It was such an obscure part of Oregon that few people had ever heard of it. I never lived there myself; I had long since moved up to Seattle.

Years after my parents were gone, but only two miles away from that ranch, a young couple found their perfect section of earth to build on. They were patching together their lives after three years of horror and bereavement, and a decade of dread before that. The wife had a number of missions to accomplish, and one of them was to find me.

She was Sheila Bellush's sister. When we finally met, she told me that she had tried many avenues to locate me, unaware of how easy it really was. Had she only called information in Seattle, she could have obtained my office phone number. In January 2000 I received an

e-mail signed with her name; I learned later it was really her husband who wrote to me because his wife had grown discouraged when her efforts brought only dead ends.

Sheila's sister told me they were determined to try one last time, and then give up because they didn't know where else to go. Fortunately, she found me on the Internet, and I wrote back to her immediately.

"Ten years ago," she said, "when Sheila ended her marriage, she told me, 'If anything ever happens to me, promise me that you will see that there is an investigation.'"

Her sister promised.

There was more: seemingly a throwaway remark said half in jest. It happened that Sheila Bellush was watching the miniseries of my book Dead by Sunset in the fall of 1995. Recognizing something in the character of a man accused of murder, she called her sister Kerry Bladorn and asked her to turn on her television set. "Remember what I told you about what to do if anything happened to me?" Sheila asked, and Kerry said she did. "And now promise me one more thing," Sheila said. "That if I'm not here, you will find Ann Rule and have her write my story."

Again Sheila's sister promised. I learned later that Sheila had asked a number of her friends to find me if anything happened to her. And so I face an awesome project; I have been given a huge responsibility by a young woman who once read my books. After so many years this is the first time a victim has chosen me to tell the story of her life—and death—long before her premonition of disaster came true. I owe her the truth and the compassion of those who read this book. I owe her a voice when she no longer has one.

For a long time I have felt a kind of "presence" of the people I write about, much in the way homicide detectives come to know the murder victims they strive to avenge. But never, never have I honored a commitment urgently foisted upon me by a woman who was a complete stranger, and who has become as familiar to me as someone in my own family.

So this is for Sheila. I hope I get it right.

Copyright © 2001 by Ann Rule

Meet the Author

Ann Rule is the author of thirty New York Times bestsellers, all of them still in print. Her first bestseller was The Stranger Beside Me, about her personal relationship to infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A former Seattle police officer, she knows the crime scene firsthand. For more than two decades, she has been a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime. She lives near Seattle. Visit her at AuthorAnnRule.com.

Brief Biography

Seattle, Washington
Date of Birth:
October 22, 1935
Place of Birth:
Lowell, Michigan
Creative Writing Program, University of Washington

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Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge, and Murder 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 149 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sheila Blackthorne Bellush knew two things for sure. She knew that her ex-husband would murder her and she understood that Ann Rule was someone who would honor her with the truth in her description of Sheila's life with Allen Blackthorne and her death at his hand. I have been in law enforcement for thirty years and have investigated many crimes related to domestic violence, including homicides and suicides. Ann Rule has maintained her standard for thorough research of her subjects and the investigation and prosecution of the criminal case. Ms. Rule understands the complexities of the behaviors and relationships in cases of domestic violence. She holds true to honesty in her description of Allen Blackthorne as a master manipulator who seeks to control Sheila for years after their divorce. Ms. Rule has provided us with a glimpse into the heart of evil when Allen realizes that he can no longer control Sheila. He is successful in taking from her the one thing she has always known he would--her life. Thanks to Ann Rule for holding fast to Sheila Bullush's request to tell her story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I feel I was lead to read this book because of my impending divorce. My soon to be ex-husband's persona is much like that of Allen Blackthorne's. Reading this book has opened my eyes to a harsh reality that makes me cringe... I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about true crime.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Ms.Rule's books and this is one of her very best! The shockingly evil nature of Allen Blackthorne, the ex husband of Sheila Bellush, is exposed and developed in captivating detail as he haunts, taunts and harasses his ex-wife relentlessly across a seven year period ,leading to the prophetic, tragic and violent ending of her young life..In the eeriest twist to this tale, Sheila had asked her sister to find Ann Rule to write her story, Sheila knowing full well that she could not escape the demon that Allen Blackthorne had become.This vision by Sheila of her eventual fate, makes this story that much more compelling..the superb forensic and detective work is spellbinding as a team of lawmen, including members of the legendary Texas Rangers, tightens the net around Allen Blackthorne to bring him to justice..The trial is a 'sweaty palms' read, as I found myself worrying that somehow Allen Blackthorne would connive and feint his way through the legal system like he did as a charlatan in every other facet of his bizarre life...The research done for this great book provides a rich fabric of detail which is gripping.. Every Breath You Take is another Rule gem that you simply can't put down..a great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm hoping someone can answer my question. Does Ms. Rule's e-books contain the pictures like her paperbacks do. You see for me, having pics of the victims & detectives allows me to be more "vested" in the story. It truly helps me to get to see what she may be discussing within the book. I LOVE Ms. Rule's books, but for me, having the pictures elevates them to real "true crime" novels, instead of just stories, and since I have a limited amount of credit, I would like to know, so that if the e-books do not have the pics, I will purchase a paperback book and save my credit for other books. Thanking you in advance for any help you can give. :) M
Sammy1960 More than 1 year ago
Although I watched this story on 48 Hours, the book is more detailed and gives a lot more information. Ann Rule is an excellent writer and very detailed in her books. If you love true crime, you will definately enjoy this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking at the cover i would of never picked it up off the shelf. That book was one of the best most realist books i have ever read in my whole entire life. I read it in two days. It was sad but worth reading. I am definatley gonna start reading more nonfiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ann Rule is the best true crime author ever! I couldn't put this book down. I think that this poor lady had a horrible husband and I am happy she got away, the only sad thing is I feel for her newest husband and all of her children. And I am very relieved that that sick man got caught and it would be a bad , bad thing if he was still free in this world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love all of Ann Rule's books. I used to work as a secretary at the city police department so I love true crime. Allen Blackthorn is a scary man. Reading about him made me realize I know someone like him and after reading this book, I have cut all ties. Doesn't matter who he hurts as long as he gets what he wants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't like to not finish a book but with this one I could not continue to its end. I gave up on page 150 of this 500 page book and the last 20 of those I skimmed hoping to find more interesting writing. This book doesn't even seem like it was written by Ann Rule because the writing is amateurish and doesn't flow. The descriptions of Allen and his extreme behaviors were stunted and shallow. She breezed over his psychopathic behaviors without telling the reader much about him or the acts. The stories of the abuse suffered by Sheila at his hands isn't told any better either. By the 150th page I think I knew more about almost anything and anybody else other than Allen and Sheila and their relationship. The long history of family going back generations didn't add anything worthwhile and should have been left out. Sheila and her family have my deepest sympathy. It is a tragic story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of Ms Rules better books...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another very interesting tale from Ann Rule. However she spends too much time with the historical aspects describing the parents and grandparents, etc. of both the victim and the murderer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellant crime book. Ann Rule is at her best. Characters come alive. Could not put it down. Miust read if you are iinto true crime stories .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another well written book by Ann Rule.. i could not put book down til finished.. this book really got to me, the way Shelia was treated n murdered.. i felt all emotions. All involved on what was done to Shelia got what they deserved, i feel punishment could have n wished it was worse especially for the ex-husband .. my heart goes to the children.. Bn
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I profile like the ones who trusted you and here you are slapping them and know that Ed and ted and gary and family of them is beat by me in a semester now give me a ring and go head charlies girl. Your fans are not my fans and im good so expect ed to be tried soon and denied but you bet your fat ass he owes michigan!
martinNC More than 1 year ago
The book is taking me a while to get through. It goes into to much of the history of the characters. I skipped pages that I didn't feel was necessary in the book. I'm sure it will get better towards the end, if I ever get there.
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