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Publisher's Summary

In April 2002, Janine Latus' youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. "Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved", it read, "but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me...."

That same spring, Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage - a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marriage in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped.

Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the East Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she'd heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing.

Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the county. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ron Ball, was sentenced for her murder.

Amy died in silent fear and pain. Haunted by this, Janine Latus turned her journalistic eye inward. How, she wondered, did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in strings of physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? If I Am Missing or Dead is a heart-wrenching journey of discovery as Janine Latus traces the roots of her own, and her sister's, victimization with unflinching candor.

©2007 Janine Latus (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Unforgettable, unsentimental, and profoundly affecting, Latus' book resonates long after the final page is turned." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall


I wasn't paying attention when I purchased this book. I thought I was getting one of those true crime tomes done by authors like Anne Rule. Nothing wrong with that, but what this book is is so much more.

Once I got past the initial shock of hearing about the author's childhood (not something I thought I was interested in), I settled into what turned out to be a thrilling read. This book is really about that thing in us that allows intelligent, educated and giving individuals to settle for less in love than we deserve. It happens to both sexes and this book is clearly dealing with the subject in depth.

I think the author, Janine Latus, is a genius in coming to relate the horror of her own marriage, the murder of her younger sister and the pain caused by this inability to get out of what surely are horrific relationships.

I don't think I've learned as much from a book in recent years. This is a spellbinding search for our real souls.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • LillyO
  • Idaho Falls, ID USA
  • 12-17-10

Message Lost in Delivery

Such a great opportunity to get a strong message "out there" lost in borderline narcissism. Sigh. Would feel better if Janine had spent less time belaboring the point that they BOTH made bad choices in men (thanks, dad) and more time telling what she's learned. It would turn this from whiny to redemptive! Great narrator, tho!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very quick listen

Overall the story was well told and the narrator-decent. It was quick and easy to follow along with but just not that intersting in my opinion.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


This book truly moved me and I plan on buying a copy to circulate between my sisters and my friends. There were so many relationship truths in this book, and I found myself saying over and over "I thought that just happened to me." And the story was told in a way that I didn't want to stop listening, I truly enjoyed every minute. If you're a woman, I highly recommend that you read this book and then urge 5 of your friends to read it. If you're a man, read this book to understand how women really feel.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ellen
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 07-02-07

All About Janine

The premise is chilling. I wish the author had delved more into why Amy was so into this guy, who was obviously using her. The author seemed to have picked up on the role their father played in forming the daughters' self-esteem, but in my opinion the author still has a long way to go in healing her own self-esteem. Frankly I'd probably have liked Amy a lot better than I would like to get to know Janine Latus. I wouldn't like to be in the same room with her.
I know she has healing to do but her little asides about other people and their inferiority are just astounding!

All through the book, single people are "losers." People who are not as trim, slim, wealthy, attractive and fashionable as Janine and her then-husband are losers too. "We were the couple everyone wanted to be!" Just when you think Latus is going to come down off her perch and be happy to embrace the regular people, she does it again. Horrors, she can't take the job in North Carlina, that's tobacco country and she just knows there won't be any kindred spirits! And when she starts dating again, the dismissive way she rejects guys on the basis of "paunch" and some other externals--all I can say is some of the sweetest, most loving, and supportive non-controlling guys have a little "paunch." I'm not saying Janine deserved her controlling husband--I am just saying she sure comes across as conceited.
How is she going to handle aging if she's that wrapped up in her looks? This book should have been titled "How Superior I, Janine Latus, Am." Maybe her dad made her overcompensate, ego-wise.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Angie
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 05-05-11

I felt deceived by this book

I was expecting a true crime book about the murder of the author's sister, maybe about the sister's life what lead to the murder, the trial etc. What it actually was was the story of the douchy men in the author's life, pervy icky dad, physically abusive boyfriends, mentally, emotionally abusive husbands. A life time of abuse and victimization at the hands of me. At chapter 28 when the sister still had not gone missing I checked my library to see if there was another part. There wasn't. While the story was well written and sort of interesting it was not the story that is portrayed in the title or blurb . It is really a memoir that includes the kidnapping of the author's sister, a kidnapping that, frankly, was treated as almost an after thought, only 2-3 chapters even talking about the kidnapping at the very end of the book. I was disappointed

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Get the abridged

I expected a different book. I thought it would be about a woman in a situation that leads to her death, about how she dealt with this since she seemed to expect it. BUT it's about the author. For over 10 hours I've listen about this woman's unsettling marriage while the sister, who later turns up missing, participates in phone calls to support her. The book started at age 3 and carries you into her 40's!!! It feels like a 18 chapter introduction. Get the abridged.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • drtmm17
  • New Orleans, LA USA
  • 07-28-07


With, "If I am Missing or Dead", Janine Latus has written a stunning autobiography/biography striking chords that will resonante with her audience for a very long time. Latus weaves a story that interconnects each of the players until the final loss of her sister Amy rips the fabric of all of their lives. She skillfully connects the good with the bad and the comic with the ultimate tragedy. Bravo. This is a masterpiece.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Courtney
  • Tucker, GA, United States
  • 05-20-14

Janine Latus' memoir - sisters murder a postscript

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No. I was depressed the whole time I read this book. I was expecting a triumphant tale of taking down the s.o.b. that killed the author's sister but was punched repeatedly with tales of the creepy, criminal, violent, selfish, and controlling men in the author's past. I was saddened by the violence and physical abuse that she suffered. The tale of her failed/ highly dysfunctional marriage was very long and seemed a bit one sided. I hope the author finds health and healing. The story of poor Amy's death was very very sad.
Abuse and violence is always wrong and the author's resource referrals for victims of abuse are greatly appreciated.

Has If I am Missing or Dead turned you off from other books in this genre?

No, but I feel that the title is misleading. This is Janine Latus' memoir punctuated by the "If I am Missing or Dead" story of losing her sister Amy.

Which scene was your favorite?

I like the scene where Janine asks her mother for a large loan to buy a typewriter and her stepfather calls back and refuses to give her the loan. Instead, the expensive typewriter would be a gift from the two of them. Finally! a good man.

Could you see If I am Missing or Dead being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

If the emphasis were on the story of Amy - I would be interested in that.

Any additional comments?

The friends encouragement to "Say goodbye" to Amy was very moving.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Judi
  • Miami, FL, USA
  • 09-12-07

Couldn't Stop Listening

This book was so powerful! The descriptions were so real, at times I felt like I knew the people involved. I had a hard time shutting off my Ipod while listening to this book. The fact that it is a true story makes it all the more riveting. I would buy any books by this author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful