Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why? Morbid Curiosity. Conclusion? Never Again.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

True crime stories have never really been my thing, but that changed (at least temporarily) when I read my first Ann Rule book.  Rule—a former Seattle police officer—writes about notorious modern murderers, examining their crimes by looking at their lives, their victims' stories, and the police work that went into bringing the killer to justice.  Her first book, The Stranger Beside Me, chronicles her search for a vicious serial killer who she's stunned to discover is her nice, quiet co-worker, Ted Bundy.  It's gruesome, but fascinating stuff.  Rule is obsessed with figuring out why such people do the things they do.  The question intrigues me as well, which explains why I've read a half dozen or so of her books.    

While I'm still interested in the psychology behind violent crime, I stopped reading these types of books because they are, by nature, graphic and disturbing.  So, why did I suddenly decide to pick up In Cold Blood—a classic of the genre—after all this time?  Simple:  morbid curiosity.  Conclusion?  Never again.  However compelling, true crime is just too gory and too depressing for me. 

You probably know the story behind In Cold Blood, but here's a quick summary:  On November 15, 1959, on a remote cattle ranch near Holcomb, Kansas, two teenagers and their parents were murdered in their home.  The Clutters were a well-respected family, known for their fairness and generosity.  Why four of them were shot at close-range on an otherwise ordinary night, no one could guess.  The brutality of the crime shocked residents of the tiny town, baffling police officers and causing gentle farming folk to look on their neighbors with newly-acquired suspicion and paranoia.  

With few clues to go on, law enforcement officials hardly knew how to proceed.  As they followed the few leads they had, they found only more questions.  A nonsensical crime became even more confounding. 

In Cold Blood, the product of four years of research by Capote, traces the case from beginning to end.  Although Capote insisted that every word in the book was true, he's been criticized for fabricating scenes and misquoting witnesses.  Some call In Cold Blood a "true crime novel."  Whatever the case may be, it's an engrossing book.  That being said, it's also (like I said above) gory and depressing.  Very depressing.  The book focuses less on the psychology behind the killers' actions than on the actions themselves, so for me, it didn't hold quite the same appeal as Ann Rule's books.  All in all, though, it's a fascinating, well-told story about a tragic crime that ruined a family and shattered the innocence of a quiet, Midwestern town.   

(Readalikes:  I haven't read any other historical true crime books, but In Cold Blood definitely reminds me of modern ones like those written by Ann Rule)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, disturbing images, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of In Cold Blood from Amazon using a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

8 comments:

  1. I'll take your word for it.

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    1. Always a wise decision :) Ha ha.

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  2. I thoroughly agree with you, I can remember reading In Cold Blood and it haunted me. I don't read true crime stories and though I like police procedurals I don't like them graphic or gory.

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    1. IN COLD BLOOD isn't actually the goriest or most graphic true crime/police procedural I've read, but it left me feeling more empty and depressed than others have. So, yeah, I'm swearing off true crime. I still like police procedurals, but I like them to have SOME redeeming value!

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  3. That's funny. I LOVED In Cold Blood. In fact, the classic I finally settled on to read was another by Capote.

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    1. Did you? Oh, Heidi, you are just full of surprises!

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  4. I could totally picture myself reading this one out of morbid curiosity, but on second thought I would probably totally freak myself out and become totally depressed! Eeeeek!! Very well articulated review!

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    1. LOL. You're a girl after my own heart, Danielle :)

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