True Crime Analysis, Breakthroughs, Insights & Discussions Hosted by Bestselling Author Nick van der Leek

Tag: Oblivion

The First Two Reviews for TWO FACE: OBLIVION

Many regular readers of this blog have followed the Watts case from the very beginning. If the murders themselves aren’t still shocking almost a year later, what is almost as astonishing is the investigation into it. It’s not that the investigation lacked resources, quite the opposite, it’s this mismatch between the crime and investigation, and the prosecution.


Each successive book in the TWO FACE series is harder to write, but perhaps easier and more interesting to read. The reviews reflect this, but let’s face it – the first two narratives were written without the benefit of 2000 pages of discovery, with no interrogations and very little evidence.

It’s been a challenge in the last few books trying to transcribe hours and hours of often indistinct audio into a cogent narrative. It doesn’t help that Watts and Kessinger are both mumblers, especially Watts. One hopes law enforcement will get their act together in this regard. If you’re going to record an interrogation, make sure you can hear it, and use it. But that’s part of the real meat and potatoes work of the true true crime writer.  Who’s going to do it if not TCRS?


Over time, true crime evolves. We’ve seen in the Watts case how the story has evolved. It’s already split into those who believe the Second Confession and those who don’t, into a group who believe Watts is a monstrous simpleton who just snapped, and another group [a smaller group I think] who see the case as more complex, and the crimes as premeditated.

As we become familiar with the facts, evidence and nuances, we have to decide what to do with it. That takes discernment. We have to decide which path we’re going to take, and who to trust.

maxresdefault (1)

In terms of the interrogations, it’s worth noting that while we hear the voices of the FBI, CBI and lead detective questioning Watts, and although we get to read the synopsis of the interview, we don’t get their interpretation afterwards. We don’t get to see what they actually believe, and what they don’t.


It’s tempting to imagine what-you-see-is-what-you-get in these interviews, but it’s really a game. It’s the true crime game, isn’t it? It’s a game from the side of the Silver Fox, but it’s also a game played by law enforcement. Are we able to decipher the rules of that game yet, and the criminal psychology that governs it? Are we becoming better lie detectors, or liars?

All of this is reflected to some extent in the Watts marriage. It’s also a game. It also has unwritten rules and invisible threads running through it, pulling strings, drawing it in this direction or that. The affair is really a reality check for all three players in this game. The affair is going to validate some and invalidate others. It’s going to reveal the true state of the relationships, commitments, cash and secret resentments.

Our incredible access in this case to the Watts family allows us not only to fathom how fairy tales are born, but how and why they die. The Watts case is a vital and valuable cautionary tale, and though the American public were denied the opportunity to learn from this tragedy in court, through a criminal trial, the TWO FACE book series provides another alternative.


Fullscreen capture 20190617 030649


“I think he’s a sociopath with absolutely no remorse.”- Catherine Townsend, Private Investigator and Investigation Discovery Expert

Sometimes – especially on social media – I encounter members of the public all saying the same thing at the same time. Sometimes they’ll be saying with absolute confidence that Chris Watts is a monster, then it’s that he’s a narcissist, then a sociopath.

Typically this follows a Dr. Phil Show, a documentary, or when some expert appears on HLN. If everyone is saying the same thing, and thinking the same thing, and repeating the same thing, it’s no wonder the mainstream never figures out so many of these cases.

Can anyone say why this crime happened? Can anyone reconcile the evidence to the psychology to the family dynamics, forwards and backwards, cross-ways, making sure everything lines up?

Because the sociopathic, monster and narcissism labels only fit the crime itself. What about the rest?

While in the clip below Townsend is broadly correct, there are clear sociopathic traits in the aftermath of this crime, were they present before? If Watts was a despicable, heartless narcissist, why did everyone like him up until the moment of the crime? And if he’s a sociopath with no remorse, why did he start acting cold to Shan’ann and the kids. Why did they pick up on him being distant and standoffish?

How can you become cold and distant if you weren’t warm and affectionate to begin with? So a more complete picture is that as Watts became more ensconced in an affair, he began to act less affectionate. But that’s not sociopathy, that’s normal!

Now I want to briefly illustrate why this kind of labeling is simplistic and reductionist, and how it actually prevents us from figuring out cases like this, rather than helping us.

Before we get to that, watch this clip.

So in the clip Townsend plucks the low-hanging fruit and on the face of it it seems pretty straightforward.

Watts just wanted out of his marriage, he wanted to be single, and he just saw his family as things he wanted to get rid of…

But under that face, under the sur-face – which is why we talk of the TWO FACE-dness of Chris Watts – it’s not nearly so simple. He didn’t just want to be single, he wanted to be with Kessinger. He didn’t want to be on his own because he spent every night – when his family was away – with Kessinger.

Fullscreen capture 20190611 164356

So the narrative you’re getting from these experts, and these episodes, is derived from the truth, but how much time have these experts really spent studying the case? Is it the only case on their desk, or is it one of many, and is this one of many appearances on one of many shows?

The notion that Watts just saw his family as things he wanted to get rid of is a tempting thought. It makes absolute sense retrospectively, but as soon as we park the wheelbarrow beside the retrospective aspect of true crime, all there is to excavate is the dirt from the crime scene and the aftermath. Believe it or not there is another side – another face – to this story, it’s the long backstory and run up that leads to the crime itself. How long was this phase? Moments? Seconds? Minutes? Months? Or a lifetime in the making?

Chris Watts didn’t treat his wife or his kids, or anyone, as things, prior to the murders. So does the crime make him a sociopath retrospectively, or was he always one, he was simply hiding it?

And it’s because we’re hitching the wagon to a pair of horses named Sociopath and Saw his family as Things, that we’re prevented from seeing how this crime actually played out. Because in reality, Watts didn’t see his family as things, he loved them, and then he didn’t love them, and then yes he did want to get rid of them. The story is that he did so violently and heartlessly. The position of TCRS is that the murders of the children weren’t violent, and even Shan’ann’s murder – though more violent and physical – isn’t the way it’s been portrayed.

I know what you’re thinking. How do you commit a murder without aggression, without violence? But there are ways. We see it in true crime all the time. And if we weren’t focused on labels and making things so simple, we might see how things are more subtle.

OBLIVION has just been published!

In ANNIHILATION it was firmly established and reinforced that the scenario of the crime Chris Watts gave his interrogators during the Second Confession was a lie. The Watts children weren’t killed after Shan’ann, and they weren’t murdered at the well site. The murder was more calculated and cunning than Watts has let on. It was premeditated.

If it’s clear Watts was lying yet again what remains to sift through in the Second Confession? What’s left to unravel? Just these three questions:

What truth IS there in the Second Confession?
Where does this truth take us?
When did the premeditation start, and what precisely started it?

OBLIVION does the difficult job of untying the knots and strands of veracity tied and tangled into all the lies. They’re there, it’s just a question of finding them, separating them, and figuring out what patterns they weave, and what the patterns mean.

With each successive book in the TWO FACE series, the analysis goes deeper and darker, the insights become sharper and more finely tuned. OBLIVION is a more complex, challenging and complicated analysis than ANNIHILATION, and all the preceding narratives in the series.

“It really is the most earth-shattering of the eight narratives, because what OBLIVION does is it finally completes the circle; the full circle means what is grasped is the full scale – the sheer dimensions – of the devastation of this tragedy.” 

Chris Watts and the Psychology of the Introvert [+ Test Yourself on the Introversion Scale]

Chris Watts always seems like a fish out of water, doesn’t he? He doesn’t seem completely comfortable in many of those Thrive videos. He’s not comfortable in the Sermon on the Porch, although in his shorts and sandals, he’s trying his best to act casual. And in all his interrogations, he seems more focused on trying to appear normal, which of course makes him seem even weirder.


Now that he’s in prison for the rest of his life, he appears – and sounds – more relaxed, and more comfortable than we’ve ever seen him. It’s as if an actual prison is a sort of natural psychological home for him, a place where he can truly be himself, not so much enjoy himself but just be himself.

Fullscreen capture 20190610 014345

There’s a stereotype associated with true crime – not in all true crime, but some areas of it – where the quiet, nondescript neighbor that no one noticed before turns out to be the worst monster – a diabolical serial killer, mass shooter or serial rapist of some sort.

This stereotype exists because it’s often true. It’s the invisible introvert who’s capable of a much deeper, and richer inner world than the average person, and so when we translate that capacity to true crime, we get a much darker, and more depraved kind of crime. The Watts Family Murders are a lot like that when you think about it.

On this blog I don’t like to discuss psychology, not because it’s not my thing, but because that’s what the books do. That’s why there are already eight TWO FACE books on this case already [OBLIVION is out tomorrow].

One of the issues I’ve been itching to tackle in more detail is this seemingly unimportant issue of Watts’ personality. He’s an introvert. So what? Well, it’s a major personality type and a major defining trait of this particular murderer – whom no one can understand, and who did something no one can explain.  That’s really the final word on this case. No one knows why and no one will ever know.


Rocket Science specializes in these kind of psychological conundrums. In order to prime you for what’s coming in OBLIVION, it’s important that you understand yourself on the introversion/extroversion scale. You may think you do, but this test will make it explicit.

Fullscreen capture 20190610 013428

Fullscreen capture 20190610 012714

Feel free to share the results of this test, and if you feel the test isn’t an accurate reflection, tell us. If it is, tell us. If you found something out about yourself by taking the test, don’t be shy, don’t be an introvert – tell us!

blog - Introvert Extrovert

In the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, I’ll start first. I scored as a:

Public extrovert and private introvert.

Fullscreen capture 20190610 010253

I’m not sure it’s true that I’m a wallflower at home [perhaps being an author means you automatically are], but I know in certain situations, public and private, I can be.

Personally I think the litmus test for extroversion/introversion has to do with how one deals with being alone. I have mixed feelings about it. I want my space but also feel lonely at times. Can you be an extrovert and an introvert at the same time? Clearly you can be.

Now in the Watts case, being alone does emerge as a kind of test. We see what Watts does when he’s left alone for five weeks. We see what he does when he’s not home. We also see how Shan’ann tolerates not being alone, as well as how she manages people.

And this is the value of spending some time personalizing these concepts. When we do not only do we get a much deeper grasp on these enigmatic true crime characters and personalities, we also see how and where we [hypothetically] fit into these myriad dynamics.

I also think it’s a spectrum. You’re born on one or the other side of the scale, but it’s a sliding scale, and it can change during the various stages and circumstances of your life.

We saw how Chris Watts seemed to become more extroverted in some ways, and Shan’ann as well. But it’s also a sort of default setting. Especially when things aren’t going the way we want them to. Watts’ introversion feeds into his identify, and without exception, we all default to our identities. In true crime this is especially true, which is why identity is absolutely key to why criminals do what they do.

Understanding identity also helps explain why we do the things we do, or why we feel the way we do about what we do and how we do it.

I love the first line of my result, about the horror of leaving others indifferent. I think Shan’ann also felt that a great deal. Ironically, Watts seemed to feel the opposite way during his Sermon on the Porch, and Confession #1 and 2. It’s as if he wanted people to feel indifferent.

Shan’ann and the kids have disappeared. I’m not sure where they went. But maybe it’s not a big deal…?


Now, in conclusion: is the above test accurate? Was it for you? For me? Well, if you’re a full-time author, yes, you are all about changing hearts and influencing minds, especially in a genre as serious and epic as true crime. Leaving others unchanged or indifferent means your efforts have failed. You have failed. What I don’t like is this idea of needing to be validated externally. My work does, I don’t, but it’s easy to get sucked into OBLIVION [see what I did there…]

Now it’s your turn 😉

More: Introverts run the world — quietly

Raising An Introverted Child In An Extroverted World

“Chris Watts is a narcissistic psychopath”- now find out what YOU are