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If I Can't Have You

Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children
Length: 10 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, True Crime
4.6 out of 5 stars (47 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author Gregg Olsen and co-author Rebecca Morris investigate one of the 21st Century's most puzzling disappearances and how it resulted in the murder of two children by their father.

Every once in a great while a genuine murder mystery unfolds before the eyes of the American public. The tragic story of Susan Powell and her murdered boys, Charlie and Braden, is the only case that rivals the Jon Benet Ramsey saga in the annals of true crime. When the pretty, blonde Utah mother went missing in December of 2009 the media was swept up in the story - with lenses and microphones trained on Susan's husband, Josh. He said he had no idea what happened to his young wife, and that he and the boys had been camping in the middle of a snowstorm.

Over the next three years bombshell by bombshell, the story would reveal more shocking secrets. Josh's father, Steve, who was sexually obsessed with Susan, would ultimately be convicted of unspeakable perversion. Josh's brother, Michael, would commit suicide. And in the most stunning event of them all, Josh Powell would murder his two little boys and kill himself with brutality beyond belief.

©2014 gregg olsen and rebecca morris (P)2014 gregg olsen

What listeners say about If I Can't Have You

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  • Dee
  • 24-04-2018

Compelling story, ordinary narration

What did you like best about If I Can't Have You:? What did you like least?

I hadn't heard of this case and food it interesting enough to keep me listening despite the really dreadful narration

Could you see If I Can't Have You: being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

it would make a great series but that would be rather disrespectful as it's a true unresolved story

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting

Never heard this story before and I guess I wanted some sort of outcome or to know more about what happened after? Was very well written getting you to know the case and personalities of everyone, wasn't boring at all. There is definitely a lot more to this story and how the system failed once again. Worth a listen to and I will be checking in on this case to find out more!

1 person found this helpful

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Horrific story, precise presentation

this is a brilliant and sympathetic account of a ghastly and tragic story. Kevin Pearce as always gives a flawless delivery.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Pulplife
  • 20-05-2014

The Coward and the Angels

If you could sum up If I Can't Have You: in three words, what would they be?

Disturbing, Criminal,Unthinkable. A crime against humanity an unforgivable act.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

I really enjoyed Kevin's very factual voice sort of like the old Dragnet show but not as dry.

What does Laural Merlington and Kevin Pierce bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I enjoyed the Laural reading the alternative pieces such as the emails and letters. Kevin brings a excellent voice for delivery facts.

If you could give If I Can't Have You: a new subtitle, what would it be?

Guilt and Betrayal.

Any additional comments?

A few years ago I read Ann Rules take on the case included in her Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors Crime Cases Volume 16. This book here is a needed improvement over that other fine book.

With new updates on the case and a seedier perspective on the case will be enjoyed by anyone new or old to the case.

31 people found this helpful

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  • farmhouselady
  • 30-09-2015

Top of the line true crime book

Where does If I Can't Have You: rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

My title above says it.

What did you like best about this story?

Actually, I HATED the story. It is a grotesque story. But this is the real world we live in and no one in my opinion tells such stories like this author and this narrator. If I had my druthers, I'd listen to none others but unfortunately, they are mortal men, with only a human capacity to produce such high quality work. Something that took years to compose takes me mere days to consume. A lot of other high quality true crime writers seem a tad dog-eared and shabby by comparison even though they may be best selling authors.

What does Laural Merlington and Kevin Pierce bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I was prepared to not like the addition of the female voice to the narration, thinking it would sound too contrived and distracting. But it turned out to be fine. In one sense, it did help to clarify whose voice or thoughts, or writings, I was hearing. But on the other hand, Kevin Pierce is the absolute best narrator I have ever heard and I do not think there was any actual need at all, for the addition of this female voice.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I did have more of a reaction to this story than to others, sordid and awful though the others may have been. This book even got me to questioning why I like true crime stories and wondering if they are good for me. The story, the situation, was the hardest for me to swallow that I can recall in recent memory.

Any additional comments?

I did recollect getting bits of information about this awful story via news stories and I had always been rather curious about learning more, because on the face of it, it was extremely difficult to fathom how a father could do what this one did. I thought more background would help me understand the human elements, etc. Turned out more background increased, instead of decreased, my sense of astonishment and shock at the turn of events in this case. It just seems to be the ultimate, last meaning of the word "horrible". I had to give up audiobooks for a brief break and get my mind on other matters, before I ordered up more audiobooks.

I believe only Olsen and Pierce could tell this story in its entirety and do it justice.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Susan
  • 12-12-2017

Hard to Believe People Can Be This Horrible

This is one of those books that you wish was fiction.

There are so many despicable characters in this narrative. Just when you think it can't get any worse, something or someone else appears.

There is noticeable generational dysfunction, which is sad. Many lives destroyed, while nobody getting any kind of help. Susan and her children were the ultimate victims, but her parents are right behind them. I felt so horribly bad for them.

The husband's oldest sister is to be commended for standing by Susan's family. It had to be very hard for her but her courage to do the right thing makes one believe in the goodness of people, especially as she came from a very dysfunctional and horrible family.

Susan''s husband was a monster, but so was his Dad. Since they still don't know what happened to her we are left to wonder who did what to her.

Excellent true crime writing but a heart-wrenching listen.

5 stars

11 people found this helpful

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  • Georgia
  • 02-06-2014

I gasped several times; I didn't see THAT coming!!

If you could sum up If I Can't Have You: in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating. Gripping. Shocking.

What other book might you compare If I Can't Have You: to and why?

This is by far the best true crime book I have ever read. I don't know of any book that compares. You won't be disappointed.

What about Laural Merlington and Kevin Pierce ’s performance did you like?

At first I though Kevin Pierce's reading was not going to be to my liking, but I adjusted to his rhythm quickly and enjoyed his voice. Laural had very little reading, but what she did was good.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

ABSOLUTELY! I would get to my destination and sit in my car and listen to three more chapters before MAKING myself stop! It's a long book, but I didn't want it to end. I plan to listen to it again.

Any additional comments?

Although this book is a true story and contained some sexual portions, it was told in a way that was not vulgar with basically no profanity. I sat shaking my head many, many times as I listened, wondering why this woman stayed with him and also shocked that such evil exists in our world? It was a well-written book and I'm now looking for others from this author.

31 people found this helpful

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  • your mom
  • 13-05-2014

Disturbingly Gripping

What did you like best about this story?

So sad that this is a true story, as it has so much drama in it, one might think it couldn't possibly be. There are so many twists, I was on truly on the edge of my seat, listening. It's amazing to see just how deeply disturbed a human being can become....and it can be generational.

What about Laural Merlington and Kevin Pierce ’s performance did you like?

The change of voice at the beginning of each chapter was unexpected, and it helped to give "Susan" a voice. (Which sadly, after listening to this book, it's evident that she didn't have one.)

19 people found this helpful

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  • Paul B.
  • 30-07-2016

Heartbreaking and compelling

This is my first review after some 120 audible.com book purchases, most of which are in the true crime genre. This particular story stands out because of its heartbreaking conclusion and the skillful narrative that moves toward it. This is one of several titles I have listened to more than once, and I find the story all the more engaging and compelling when knowing in advance how it will turn out. Both narrators are masterful. Kevin Pierce, the main narrator, is, as always, superb--especially in this work that requires pathos and empathy.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Hilary
  • 23-06-2014

Josh Powell is where he belongs...

I was haunted during and after listening to this book about Susan Powell's (obvious) murder and the inexplicable inability for authorities to find her remains. The whole Powell family, excepting sister Jennifer, should be imprisoned simply for not divulging the truth about Susan's murder and/or for supporting their weak, manipulative, pathetic brother/son, Josh.

The narration was great. Initially, the woman's voice at the beginning of each chapter was off-putting and chilling - she sounded mechanical (computerized) as she read excerpts from Susan's emails, diary and letters. It eventually it made perfect sense and lent itself to this profoundly disturbing story.

This case deserved FBI attention or at least a more through, condensed investigation. The local officials seemed to drag their feet and relied on silly methods to try to trick Josh... the investigation wore on for years. They never put the REAL heat on this guy. Also, child/family services, while respecting that Josh was never formally charged with the murder of his children's mother, should have been monitoring Josh more closely. Supervised visitation with his children should have been held in a controlled environment - not Josh's home. Also, he played ridiculous games with Susan's parents. As if they hadn't suffered enough, he dangled their grandchildren and then ripped them away from them for no reason other than to be a complete jack*ss. I know this is a touchy for local/state authorities, because technically a person is innocent until proven guilty, but surely a case including a missing, presumed dead mother, whose husband is the prime suspect, deserves to be handled more delicately than most. These poor children are dead because a) their father was a maniac, b) social services were too timid (forced by policy, procedure) and c) police were too slow in putting together the pieces of the crime and focused too heavily on the lack of a body. Susan was a moral, upright, hard-working person and devoted mother - her disappearance should have been treated with alarms from day one.

I ended the book with feelings of complete and utter frustration. I cannot believe how this played out. I cannot believe how Josh (who seemed less than intelligent) pulled this off. I can't believe how much the Cox family has suffered. If Josh Powell didn't kill himself, I'd have to refrain from getting on a plane to Puyallup myself. Josh Powell and most of his kin are cowards and villains, mostly thanks to their disturbed/dysfunctional patriarch. What a complete waste and total shame. RIP Susan, Charlie & Braden.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Leslie Snider
  • 19-02-2017

So good

Narrator and author did an amazing job with this book, it was gripping from beginning to end. I started it and spent every available moment listening until it was over.

What a terrible, horrible thing that's happened to that family. From listening and seeing it on the news in Utah I knew about the situation but this book went in depth about the evil monster Josh Powell and what he did to his entire family. I don't want to be quick to recommend this book because the story is horrific but if that's what you like to read then it's the book for you.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Dave
  • 04-12-2019

Fascinating, Stomach-Turning Evil

This is not the blood-and-gore type of True Crime story that’s full of murders and mayhem, although the 3 murders it details hit me even harder, like a punch in the gut. Instead, it is an amazingly detailed, almost high-definition account of the famous case of Susan Powell’s disappearance and the subsequent murder of her two young boys by their father, who intentionally torched himself, his sons and the family home 3 years later. Just writing those words is heart-wrenching. To its credit, Olsen’s thoughtfully-rendered account of these crimes and the families involved is even more so. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the people and their story as it unfolds, and even though I knew from national news reports at the time how the horrific drama ended, I was totally hooked by the author’s detailed unveiling of the events that led to that unthinkable ending. It’s hard for anyone, let alone a father of two boys like myself, to comprehend the things that Josh Powell did to his family. Olsen never fully explains the “why’s” of it all, although there are plenty of clues in the killer’s past and his family’s history. But by the end of his account I was glad he didn’t try to fit it into a pat, easily digested explanation. It was just the inexplicably evil acts of a shockingly banal, selfish little man. It defies easy explanation. The narration by Kevin Pierce was excellent, and perfectly suited to the story. It’s a documentarian’s voice — no nonsense, no extraneous emotionality, but with an undertone that conveys the genuinely heartbreaking emotion behind the facts of the case. I requested a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review, but I happily would have paid full price for this one. It’s a great True Crime book, meticulously detailed, thoughtfully written and professionally narrated. And I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mark Martinico
  • 06-10-2019

Suspenseful, tragic true crime.

Prior to listening to “If I Can’t Have You”, I was largely unfamiliar with the Susan Powell case, I remembered some fragments from news coverage from when the case was new, but nothing more. Thankfully, authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris do not presume the reader/listener has any familiarity with the case, and instead provide a thorough account of the many twists and turns in the case. Events unfold in a suspenseful way, with an engaging, detailed narrative. Kevin Pierce - who is the primary narrator - has an excellent, authoritative voice, perfect for true crime. And Laural Merlington - who voices Susan’s journal entries and other recollections at the beginnings of chapters - adds a nice, sometimes haunting element. The fact that “officially” much of this case remains unsolved (no confession, no body), will make aspects of it linger in your mind. It’s easy to apply hindsight and say that much of the tragedy and injustice in the case should have been preventable. But I suppose that’s the problem with hindsight. All in all, this was a suspenseful, detailed account of an increasingly tragic, frustrating series of events. I received a free promo copy of this audiobook, in exchange for an honest review.

4 people found this helpful

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  • E
  • 07-10-2016

What a heartbreaking listen

Where does If I Can't Have You: rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of my Top 5 audiobooks.

What did you like best about this story?

This is a very difficult story to listen to. It is very raw and you can almost feel the pain of Susan Cox Powell's family (particularly her father) and friends went through. To have a daughter disappear then be at the mercy of a seriously creepy and deranged son in law who clearly hates you and finally to have two of your grandsons brutally murdered - absolutely heartbreaking. The story however is beautifully told, very captivating throughout, with no unnecessary information but at the same time with plenty of detail.

What does Laural Merlington and Kevin Pierce bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Kevin Pierce is the main narrator and does an amazing job as always, Laural is Susan's voice - I liked this touch as it made Susan seem a bit even closer to the listener.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Jamie Cottam-howarth
  • 24-02-2015

review

Very good I recommend this as a good read especially if you have a long drive

5 people found this helpful

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  • Bobbie
  • 21-04-2016

Fantastic

This was one of the best true crime stories I have listened to. Story brilliant narration brilliant thank you

4 people found this helpful

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  • D Wade
  • 01-03-2016

Heartbreaking

Heartbreaking, Tearful, True Crime Story. A must read for all true crime readers. ... .

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lisa Hessey
  • 30-03-2020

great narrator lovingly written very sad

the book is very sad strange to say I loved it as the tagedy was so high but the narrator was straight and direct it was him that kept me gripped to the storyline

1 person found this helpful

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  • Melinda
  • 29-07-2020

Ok but long and drawn out

Gripping story but way too drawn out with details repeated. Narrator's accent annoying. Finished book purely to hear how things ended.

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  • Katie
  • 27-07-2020

starts well

This is an interesting book at first, but I felt that it dragged much of the book out trying to get Josh to confess and looking at dead ends. Nothing much happens until chapter 45 and even then we are left with little understanding of Josh's behaviour. I'm still non the wiser after reading what seems to be a book based on what could have been a great story (if it were fiction) although reality is, there are always many lose ends and unanswered questions.

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  • Berkshire Book Wench
  • 10-07-2020

Wow, what a story

Whilst I did enjoy that I do wish you hadn't use Laurel Merlington, her syrupy slow voice makes me grind my teeth in frustration

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-07-2020

Heart breaking story

This book leaves you with feeling of dispair, lack of answer to "why" and "where is she" breaks a heart.

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  • C.J.Aurentium
  • 21-11-2019

Not for the faint-hearted

How twisted the minds of one family plays out and that it ends up in tragedy.....still with lots of unanswered questions.