Title: Twisted Triangle: A Famous Crime Writer, a Lesbian Love Affair, and the FBI Husband’s Violent Revenge
Author: Caitlin Rother
Release: April 2008
Genre: True Crime
Length: 304 Pages
Twisted Triangle details the real-life love triangle between crime novelist Patricia (Patsy) Cornwell and married FBI agents Gene and Margo Bennett. The majority of narratives are based on Margo’s recollections, typically verified by third party input and legal documents. The triangle is not the typical woman-scorned story, however, for it is Margo who had a lesbian affair with Patsy while Gene seethed on the sidelines.
At least, Margo may have wished that was the case. In reality, Gene –an eerily successful undercover agent used to playing roles convincingly- managed to terrorize and brutalize Margo for the better part of a decade, at one point kidnapping her for several days and at in another instance engaging in a shootout at a church.
Mind you, Margo is no saint – a point author Caitlin Rother conveys adequately despite having no direct participation from Patsy or Gene. Margo started down the wrong path early in life, highlighted by an abusive incident with her father and the dutiful nonchalance of her traditional southern mother. As a result, most of Margo’s adult life would be spent drifting in and out of short infatuations –heterosexual and homosexual- that she ritually mistook for love. Her marriage to Gene took a turn for the worse almost instantly when he decided to break FBI protocol by collaborating with various undercover contacts on money-making schemes (including defrauding an FBI program designed to prevent equity loss by agents selling their homes to relocate).
Patsy entered the picture hoping to get some pointers from real-life agents and her attraction to Margo was instantaneous. After some cat and mouse, the two blondes eventually came clean and choose to explore their feelings, causing Margo to drift obliviously away from both the social taboos of her Virginia surroundings and, more destructively, her duties at home. Being a seasoned FBI agent, Gene determined the nature of his wife’s relationship to her “new friend” in relatively short order and launched a campaign of psychological warfare fit for one of Patsy’s novels.
Rother touches on several recurring themes while sorting through the sordid details of the Bennetts’ marriage. Margo’s attractions were typiced short-sighted and screamed the need to fill a void from her childhood. Yet Patsy –despite being non-violent while showering both Margo and her two daughters with gifts- was barely more attentive than Gene. Both lovers tended to treat Margo as a possession rather than a person. Throughout the story, the Bennett children were used as pawns by Gene while being secondary on Margo’s mind (next to personal survival). Predictably, both girls eventually needed a lot of therapy – much of it administered in the form of drugs, sex and self-mutilation. To that end, the latter section of the book is bittersweet, reveling in the protagonist’s survival as much as it cautioned about the fallout.
Twisted Triangle is not my usual book but was a nice diversion from geo-political and financial literature. Caitlin Rother’s work is highly rated by Amazon.com readers and, based on this non-fictional account, the adulation is justified. I look forward to reading more of her work.