Tuesday, 2 August 2022

How Monsters Hide in Plain Sight By Alexandrea Weis

©Vesuvian Media Group

Many who have watched documentaries on serial killers, rapists, and con artists often wonder how victims didn’t see them coming until it was too late. After all, the perpetrator’s abhorrent behavior is evident to everyone sitting at home safely tucked behind computer screens and televisions.

Unfortunately, countless people have had the misfortune of encountering psychopaths. They are narcissistic, manipulative, impulsive, and lack empathy. Psychopaths are usually charismatic and skilled at playing a role to get what they want. Like Bernie Madoff, who conned investors out of millions, they have no conscience, show no remorse for their actions, and are callous, unemotional, and morally depraved. These criminals pretend to care when it suits their needs and can present as adjusted, well-rounded individuals to hide their cruel or deviant behavior. Remember Ted Bundy and how he charmed his trial judge? Bundy and others like him are not considered legally insane because they know right from wrong. They just don’t think the law applies to them.

Rapists can also have psychopathic traits. I experienced this firsthand in high school. A friend, Lady L, was raped by a young man. He was handsome, popular, the son of wealthy parents, but known for his ego, love of flirting, and ability to worm his way out of trouble. When she was asked out by the boy who made every girl’s heart flutter, rumors began to swirl about his penchant for rape. After her date, everyone noticed a change in her. A girl who had once dressed well and took pride in her social calendar was seen in baggy clothes and withdrew from all activities. I remember noticing, but I never put the signs together because no one taught us what they meant. Thirty-five years later, Lady L finally told her family and friends what had happened. She’d lost her virginity to a man who drugged and raped her. He never paid for his crime, and his wife and children do not know what he did.

Through fiction, a reader can safely delve into the mind of such twisted people. River of Ashes is a cautionary tale about a guy who is perfect—until he isn’t. Sometimes evil hides behind a handsome face and killer smile. Beau Devereaux, the golden boy of St. Benedict, Louisiana, is the catch of the town. But behind his Prince Charming persona hides a monster. Beau’s victims never saw him coming, either. And even after he commits heinous acts, people keep quiet for the same reasons most young women do today—fear of reprisals, humiliation, peer pressure, and lack of trust in “the system.” Part of me wanted to write River of Ashes for my Lady L, to help open readers’ eyes to what can happen. People are rarely who they seem, which is even more evident with psychopaths. We all judge a book by its cover. We admire the packaging and, from that, develop a sense of trust. But until we urge people to question every Prince Charming that comes along, the suffering of women in our society will continue to be the focus of movies and novels.

Some readers wonder why Beau Devereaux is the way he is, but there is no clear explanation. The abuse excuse made famous in the Menendez brothers’ trial does not apply to most psychopaths. A few came from loving homes such as Dennis Radner, the BTK killer. And though there isn’t a psychopath gene, studies show psychopathy does run in families. Even if a parent doesn’t exhibit any traits, they may carry a genetic variant that increases their child’s chance of psychopathy. Troubling behaviours usually emerge during childhood and worsen over time. Puberty is when most develop dark fantasies they act out later in life. Such was the case with Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy. No one expects to come face to face with a psychopath, but some of us already have. So, look beneath the shiny veneer if anyone appears too good to be true. Educating young people today could spare many from becoming victims in the future. Acknowledging such horrific subjects isn’t easy, but it is necessary. We have an opportunity to raise awareness, even if we must tackle such an unsettling subject one book at a time.  

Rivers of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis and Lucas Astor (Vesuvian Books) Out Now

Along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river. And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux. The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The 'prince” of St Benedict is the ultimate catch. He is also a psychopath. A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau's eveil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensires their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend's headstrong twin sister, Leslie who hates him. Everything he wants but canot have, she will be his ultimate prize. As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux. And that someone will pay with their life.

More information about Alexandrea Weis can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twtter @alexandreaweis and on Facebook and Instagram @alexandreaweis

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