What Russo firmly does is place the outcomes of the cult, within a cultural context of the crumbling American empire, and the death of the public service ideal. By doing this he makes the scared, isolated lives the cult members live much more a symptom of the modern worlds lack of connection, community and shared values, rather than the punchline of a joke.
By trying to inhabit both the best of true crime and crime fiction Chizman displays an admirable amount of creative ambition and playfulness. Of course some of the best work in true crime comes is in the first person, and to truely inhabit that position he has to write as himslef. There is the added bonus that this lends great authenticity to the time and place, but this is perhapse at the expense of the telling the story, and it feels to me that in this novel at least everything should be in greater service to the story.