In Cold Blood- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

In 1959, the Clutter family was murdered. No motive. No witnesses. The town of Holcomb was left with their jaws hanging open. In the famous novel, In Cold Blood, Truman Capote reconstructs both the murder and the investigation, as well as the trials and implications that followed. What led to the murder of the Clutters? And could the killers really be human at all?

Being a lover of true crime novels and psychological thrillers, I knew one day I had to pick up In Cold Blood. Already, I was aware of some of the controversy around whether or not Capote made up details, so I went in with that knowledge. After all, so many true crime novels leave aspects to the imagination.

I think one of the most frightening thing with In Cold Blood is how you almost (with an emphasis on almost) sympathize with the killers. Capote paints Perry and Dick as human – and that’s terrifying. You come to understand why they committed the crime, and in some aspects feel sorry for them. That alone is a question of the human condition as a whole, isn’t it? We are drawn to the darkness.

But, when you take a moment to step back, you remember that Perry and Dick aren’t the villains in some fantasy. These were real men, who committed horrible actions, with little remorse. The fact that Capote can paint them so elegantly is frightening…because how many people have we trusted or liked, then realized were terrible? It’s a frightening aspect of reality.

Part of this is based on the narrative. While the fourth of the book, we meet the Clutter family, and later on we meet the investigators, the true story we follow are that of Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock. A part of the human condition is trying to understand these individuals, but in the process we might just scare ourselves.

I’ll admit, there were some parts that moved slowly (and it might also have been because of the audiobook narrator). It took me a bit to get into the book. The beginning, going through the Clutter’s lives, wasn’t particularly interesting. Although, that might have been the point. There was nothing scandalous about the Clutters. They just fell victim to a merciless crime.

Overall, I think if you enjoy true crime, then it’s pertinent to read In Cold Blood. This was basically one of the first well known true crime novels. It shaped much of what we read today. Did Capote lie or stretch the truth? Absolutely. Did his narratives negatively impact the families? Possibly. But that is the fallout of these sort of stories.

Overall, really, it was some stellar reporting.

What’s it about?

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. At the center of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative. 

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