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Mad Notions: A True Tale of Murder and Mayhem

by John Lawrence Reynolds

It’s hard not to be appalled and disgusted at the bad guys – actually a gal and a guy – in Reynolds’ tale of sex, drugs, and murder in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. But to Reynolds’ credit as a storyteller, it’s equally hard to put the book down, even though the ending is revealed long before the last page.

Reynolds came to this true-crime tale of lovers-turned-murderers Shayne Lovera and Brett Rae through connections. Growing up in Ontario, he and Rae’s father, Rick, were best friends. So when the senior Rae called to say his son had been arrested for murder and it was a story worth telling – provided Reynolds could sort out the many versions of the truth – the offer was too tempting to refuse.

Mad Notions often reads like a treatment for a TV movie: true but unbelievable, captivating yet repellent – rather like the principal bad gal herself, Alicia Shayne Mills Lovera. Beautiful, spoiled, self-centred, and devoid of a conscience, Lovera blames all her problems on everyone else, and plots to murder her husband, a devoted but not-rich-enough math professor.

When Lovera was a teen her stepfather, a prominent banker, died mysteriously, leaving the family with almost no money. At the time, the feds were investigating the stepfather’s bank for connections to drug smuggling. Local newspapers, one of which was published by Rick Rae, carried the story prominently. Reynolds believes Lovera involved Brett Rae in the murder to get back at his publisher father. That’s a bit of a stretch, though, considering that Rae was only the most malleable of the men she bedded and then tried to recruit as a partner in crime.

A lovestruck party boy with a criminal record, Rae emerges as the more sympathetic of the murdering duo. Whether that’s because he truly is or because his father’s best friend couldn’t help portraying him that way is a question that isn’t sorted out here, leaving readers with more than they may want to ponder about these pathetic creatures.