Through the Window – Book Review

ThroughTheWindowby: Diane Fanning

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Copyright: 2003, ISBN: [0312985258]

Cover: Steven Puetzer/Nonstock

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, April 2, 2005


Summary: Very professionally written crime report lacking a purpose.

This true crime book recounts the serial murders committed by Tommy Lynn Sells. There is nothing of substance to recommend THROUGH THE WINDOW. If you simply want a rehashing of facts with ample conjectures on the murders Sells confessed to committing, there is that. If you are looking for possible reasons that people such as Sells kill with such impunity, you might pick up on the possibility that he suffered brain damage as a result of a high fever he and his twin developed at eighteen months of age. The twin died, Sells survived.

Author Diane Fanning, an excellent writer with an ability to report facts with amazing lucidity and brevity, does a good job of adding conjecture. But in reading this book you get the sense that you are walking through the Tommy Sells Serial Killer museum, with little wax-figures poised in the act of dying at the hands of Tommy Sells. Of course the question arises as to why you are here. Fanning never comes out and gives a reason.

Since the book begins with a discussion of Sells’ last killing spree in which one of his intended victims survived, we might expect survival to be a major theme running through the museum. It is not. Though there were apparently other survivors of attacks by Sells, other victims who dutifully provided police with descriptions, they are accorded a brief mention in the parade of dead victims. The police in the various jurisdictions in which Sells drifted, for their part, come across as non-entities, existing in name only. So, what is the purpose of THROUGH THE WINDOW?

A true crime book must address the question of whether humankind is inherently good or inherently evil. The gist of the crime and the life of the criminal will reveal some shade of gray unless there is some blemish within the criminal that pushes him or her so far out of what we consider the norm that they become an exception to the question. The reader makes the final determination. In THROUGH THE WINDOW, there is only a tidbit of information defining Tommy Lynn Sells as a person. That tidbit is his apparent heavy use of mind-altering drugs. Even here however we are never able to gauge the control, if any, drugs had over Sell’s life. This is not to say that the drugs or anything else would even begin to explain the murders. The portrait Fanning paints of Sells is so sheer and slippery that you are left wondering how he was able to simply function as a person. In short, Tommy Sells has no story.

This book is not recommended reading. It fails to make a contribution to an understanding of people or society.