First published back in May of 2003 under the original title ‘Slow Death’, American journalist Jim Fielder’s book on the crimes of David Parker Ray was later re-issued as ‘The Chamber Of Horrors’ in 2010 and then updated and reissued once again under the original title of ‘Slow Death’ in 2013.

The original ‘Slow Death’ book includes a number of pictures which were not included in the latter editions.  This review if of the 2010 UK edition entitled ‘The Chamber Of Horrors’.

DLS Synopsis:
On the 22nd March 1999, twenty-two-year-old Cyndy Vigil burst into the static caravan belonging to Darlene Breech and her husband, pleading that Darlene help her.  Vigil was naked, dirty and bruised, with a metal collar padlocked around her neck.

What Vigil had to say when the police arrived would not only shock the local residents of the small out-and-back town of Truth or Consequences, but would send shockwaves across the entirety of New Mexico.  Vigil spoke of a three-day-long ordeal in which she was subjected to rape, torture, humiliation and horrific degrees of degradation.  The young prostitute told the bewildered officers of how she had managed to escape with her life, after stabbing one of her captor’s in the back of the neck with an ice-pick and then fleeing the scene where she had been used and abused for the last three days.

When the police arrived at fifty-nine-year-old David Parker Ray’s cargo trailer situated along the shoreline of the largest lake in New Mexico – Elephant Butte Lake – they discovered a home dedicated to dominance and stomach-churning depths of sexual deviation.  Ray lived on the outskirts of a small town cradled in the high, dry desert country of southern New Mexico – at a strange place called Truth or Consequences.  Here, in his sun-scorched trailer, the aging car mechanic lived with his thirty-nine-year-old girlfriend Cynthia Hendy.  But their life there was far from a normal one.

The trailer that Ray and Hendy called home contained anything but a homely interior.  Inverted crucifixes adorned the walls, and a blood-speckled bed was found positioned by a wall that contained hooks and mounts for chaining victims to.

However, it was in the windowless trailer located beside their home where the worst horrors were committed.  David had called this cargo trailer his ‘play box’ until Cindy talked him into renaming it the ‘toy box’.  A sound-proofed enclosure, sealed off from the outside world, where unspeakable horrors were committed to fulfil Ray’s rampant sexual desires.  A homemade torture chamber where the gagged and bound women he had kidnapped would be subjected to heinous episodes of brutal rape and torture.  Here Ray would film his petrified victims to create depraved films that would sell for thousands on the underground market.  Here Ray fulfilled his most depraved fetishes.  Here Ray controlled everything in his own dark world.

However Cyndy Vigil escaped Ray’s clutches before she could be subjected to the toy box.  But countless other women hadn’t been so lucky.  Some survived, with their memories of the sexual atrocities suffered stripped from their traumatised minds.  But no one knows how many didn’t survive.  Elephant Butte Lake is deep.  Its murky depths hide countless secrets.  And there’s no doubt that within its forty-four-mile-long stretch some of David Parker Ray’s worst crimes remain hidden to this day…

DLS Review:
First off, what we have here is some pretty darn disturbing reading.  David Parker Ray, together with his little entourage of sadistic followers, were some of the most depraved individuals that the world has ever known.  We’re in the gut-churning realms of Fred & Rose West and Albert Fish here.  No messing about, Ray was one sick sociopath who took pleasure in the dominance over and torture of helpless women.

A light-hearted and easy read this book most certainly is not.  Expect graphic scenes of rape, torture, humiliation, degradation and barbaric cruelty.  In fact, many of the very worst passages in the book, the ones that really chill your blood, are direct from the mouth of Ray himself.  When Ray had a new victim, after he chained them up and taped down their eyes with duct tape, he would play them pre-recorded tapes that would forewarn them of the hell they would be enduring over the coming months in his captive. And it’s the direct transcribing of these ‘introductions to hell’ that really gets under your skin.

For his first venture into true crime writing, journalist Jim Fielder has certainly picked one hell of a shocking story to tell.  And hats off to him, he doesn’t hold back with the gritty details one iota.  As such, the book (particularly the first half) is filled with detailed descriptions of the instruments and tools that filled Ray’s ‘toy box’, scene-by-scene descriptions of the (almost) ‘snuff movies’ he filmed, and his numerous drawings and guides on how to torture women.  A seemingly endless stream of horrors that flood the reader’s senses from almost the very first page.

However, Fielder has adopted an unusual approach to the way in which he delivers the shocking story of Ray’s chamber of horrors.  Rather than following a sequential timeline, detailing the  stories of each victim, and then on to Ray’s capture, trial and prosecution, instead Fielder follows the development of the case for Ray’s prosecution; delving into the various stories surrounding his victims as they arise whilst pulling together the evidence for the eventual trial.

The end result is much the same.  The vast majority of Ray’s crimes are no doubt covered.  However, the delivery nevertheless feels incredibly disjointed, with the overall timeline a tad too vague to really get fully to grips with for your casual reader of true crime.  Furthermore, this scattered approach invariably ends up with certain aspects of Ray’s crimes repeating themselves, and the same ground being covered in a number of places, all due to the haphazard way in which the series of events are told.

Although somewhat muddled in its delivery, with perhaps too much time spent on the compiling of evidence, the various ins-and-outs of the trial and Ray’s eventual prosecution and incarceration, Fielder’s book still delivers one hell of a punch to the gut.  Fielder ensures that the various intricacies of the trials (yes plural) don’t get too weighed down in matters of courtroom legality, and although spending a good proportion of the latter half of the book on the trials, Fielder nevertheless manages to maintain a vibrant and quite urgent pace throughout.

To be honest, no matter how haphazard the delivery of the book is, the subject matter alone was always going to be one that would stay with you for a long time afterwards.  The crimes committed by Ray et al are so shocking, so callous and cruel, that reading about them will undoubtedly effect even the most hardened of true crime readers.  And with Jim Fielder not holding back on the details – this book on David Parker Ray is one that will penetrate deep into the minds of all those who read it.  You have been warned.

The book runs for a total of 306 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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