BOOK REVIEW: Dead Reckoning by Caitlin Rother (True Crime)

Caitlin Rother

Genre:  True Crime
Publisher: WildBlue Press
Date of Publication: August 27, 2019
Number of Pages:  504

“Rother gives readers compelling insight to an unthinkable American nightmare. A gripping read . . . frank and frightening . . . it sizzles.” —Aphrodite Jones, host of True Crime for Investigation Discovery Network

Tom and Jackie Hawks loved their life in retirement, sailing on their yacht, the Well Deserved. But when the birth of a new grandson called them back to Arizona, they put the boat up for sale. Skylar Deleon and his pregnant wife Jennifer showed up as prospective buyers, with their baby in a stroller, and the Hawkses thought they had a deal. Soon after a sea trial and an alleged purchase, however, the older couple disappeared and the Deleons promptly tried to access the Hawkses’ bank accounts.

As police investigated the case, they not only found a third homicide victim with ties to Skylar, they also uncovered an unexpected and unusual motive: Skylar had wanted gender reassignment surgery for years. By killing the Hawkses with a motley crew of assailants and plundering the couple’s assets, the Deleons had planned to clear their $100,000 in debts and still have money for the surgery, which Skylar had already scheduled. 

Now, in this up-to-the-minute updated edition, which includes extensive new material, New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother presents the latest breaking developments in the case. Skylar, who was ultimately sentenced to death row for the three murders, transitioned to a woman via hormones while living in the psych unit at San Quentin prison. Recently, she legally changed her name and gender to female, apparently a strategic step in her quest to obtain taxpayer-subsidized gender confirmation surgery and transfer to a women’s prison. Combined with Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent moratorium on executions, this only adds insult to injury for the victims’ families, who want Skylar to receive the ultimate punishment for her crimes.

I received a copy of this book for free. This is my honest and thoughtful review.
As a huge fan of the true crime genre, this book was one that I knew I needed to read. While I was not familiar with the case prior to picking up the book, the synopsis and cover image certainly made an impression, but the account laid out within its pages has undoubtedly stamped itself on my soul.

This is an incredibly well-written and meticulously documented account of an absolutely horrific crime. Readers are taken step-by-step from the past to the investigation and trials, and with this updated edition, to learning Skyler’s present situation while on death row. Every person, from the victims to the perpetrators and their immediate family members, is given an extensive background, offering an attempt at understanding how such a tragedy could occur. Histories on the law enforcement officials and investigators are also presented that captures the extensive experience working to drop the hammer on the DeLeons and their accomplices. Surprisingly, with so much information to work through, there was never a feeling of being bogged down by all the details. In fact, the writing is so organized and deftly presented that it almost becomes a suspenseful thriller; unfortunately, this isn’t fiction. Each piece of information enhances the tension and drives the pacing to breakneck speed. The pages will fly as you learn the shocking and heart-wrenching truth! You learn the unsettling circumstances right along with the families at trial, showcasing the author’s ability to convey the horror of this crime without resorting to overly graphic or gratuitous narration.

Highly recommended as the definitive resource on the case, this is an excellent example of what compelling true crime looks like. Her completely unbiased perspective and tender treatment of the victims certainly has me looking forward to reading more.

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored 13 books, ranging from narrative nonfiction to memoir and crime fiction. Her latest titles are the true-life thriller Hunting Charles Manson and her memoir short, Secrets, Lies, and Shoelaces. A former investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 19 years, Rother has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Daily Beast. She has appeared more than 200 times on TV, radio and podcasts internationally, including Australian Broadcast Corp’s “World News,” “Crime Watch Daily,” “People Magazine Investigates,” “Nancy Grace,” “Snapped,” and dozens of shows on Netflix, Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, A&E, Reelz, C-SPAN and various PBS affiliates. Rother also works as a writing-research coach and consultant, leads writing workshops, and plays keyboards and sings in an acoustic group called breakingthecode. She is working on two new books, one titled “Justice for Rebecca,” about the Rebecca Zahau death case, and one about the San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo.


Many thanks to Pump Up Your Book Blog Tours and the author! It was a pleasure reading, reviewing, and hosting! And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more opinions and extras!

Tuesday, October 1

Book Feature & Tour Kick Off at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Wednesday, October 2

Book Featured at Blogging Authors

Thursday, October 3

Book Teaser Trailer at YouTube

Friday, October 4

Book Review at The World As I See It

Tuesday, October 8

Book Feature at My Book Launch

Wednesday, October 9

Interview at The Dark Phantom Reviews

Thursday, October 10

Book Featured at As the Page Turns

Monday, October 14

Book Teaser Trailer Featured at The Writer’s Life e-Magazine

Tuesday, October 15

Book Review at Gimme the Scoop Reviews

Thursday, October 17

Book Review at Sefina Hawke’s Books

Friday, October 18

Book Review at Just Another Reader

Monday, October 21

Book Review at Momma Says: To Read or Not To Read

Tuesday, October 22

Book Review at Books for Books

Friday, October 25

Book Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Book Review at All Books Revealed

Interview at T’s Stuff

Monday, October 28

Interview at Jazzy Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 29

Book Review at That’s What She’s Reading

Thursday, October 31

Interview at Chapter Break

Book Review at The Book Connection


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