Tag Archive | true crime

Book Review: In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

In 1959, four members of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas were brutally murdered in their country farmhouse.  The killers left almost no clues, and the savage nature of the crime terrified the community for six weeks as investigators searched for the men responsible.  The news gripped the nation at the time, and a nationwide search for the killers was conducted.

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote traveled to Holcomb to research the murders and interview community members, investigators, and the murderers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock.  He compiled thousands of pages of notes and eventually wrote what is considered by many to be the first true crime novel.  Capote explores the background and relationships of the family, as well as the killers.  He tracks their movements after the murders, in the weeks before they were captured, as well as their experiences awaiting trial and on death row.

Both Smith and Perry were executed in 1965, and are also suspected of the murder of another family that occurred in Florida while the men were on the run.

In Cold Blood is well researched and well written; the book flows well as Capote weaves together the stories of the family and their murderers.  Of course, Capote did have his detractors; those who said that even though he described the book as non-fiction, quotes and entire scenes were fictional.  I understand the criticism, but in my opinion, it doesn’t really take away from the story to know that some of it might have been created.

I listened to the audio book version; bonus that it was read by one of my favorite readers, Scott Brick!

4 stars.

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, is the story about the search for a serial killer. 

The East Area Rapist, as he was originally known, was a prolific rapist targeting the Sacramento, California area in the 1970s.  They didn’t know it until many years later, but at some point, the rapist became a murderer.  When his spree was finally completed ten years later (at least as best we know), the East Area Rapist had raped over 50 women and murdered at least ten men and women, between 1976 and 1986, in three different California counties.

Michelle McNamara, the author of the book, was a true crime writer who became obsessed with this long cold case.  She built connections with detectives, victims’ family members and amateur sleuths, and compiled a massive amount of data on the East Area Rapist’s crimes.  Of course, once he was tied to the murders, his nickname was no longer appropriate.  McNamara renamed him the Golden State Killer – and it stuck.

Her book details her research into the crimes and the search for the killer.  She details the crimes thoroughly; so it is not for the faint of heart.  She talks about her visits to detectives, and her visits to the crime scenes.  Interestingly, she also shares information about her own life; I enjoyed hearing about the impact that the case had on her own life.  The book also goes into extensive detail on DNA technology and the scientific advances that have been made over the last 35 years.  She also writes about how DNA was used in the case; DNA was responsible for linking the rapes in Sacramento to the murders in the Los Angeles area.

Unfortunately, McNamara died before the book was completed; an autopsy revealed her death at age 46 was a result of an accidental overdose of Adderall, Xanax, and Fentanyl.  Her husband hired two researchers to complete the book.

If you don’t know what the outcome of the case was, I won’t give it away.  It is really interesting (and really disturbing).  The book was fascinating, and true crime readers will enjoy it.  But like I said, you might not want to read it before bed, especially if you sleep alone in a one-story home.



Book Review: The Man from the Train

What happens when a sports writer tries to solve a series of unsolved murders that occurred over 100 years ago, all across the country? This book.

Between the 1890s and the 1930s, there were numerous ax murders of families occurring across the United States. Not that many, but perhaps more than could be explained by mere coincidence. The Man from the Train details author Bill James’ theory that many, if not most, of these murders were committed by the same man.


The book details the facts that are known about each murder, which is often very little after so much time has elapsed. Then he explores the commonalities among the murders, and then determines whether these commonalities fit the pattern. If so, they were part of the series of murders all committed by one man.  Neatly wrapped up – case closed.

Never mind that these murders occurred hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles away from each other, in a time when most people didn’t travel far from their homes. Never mind that he had absolutely no evidence to tie the murders to the man he accuses, who was only suspected, and never prosecuted, for one ax murder.

Never mind that his murderer would have had to have been murdering families for decades without ever being caught. Or that traveling around the country would have been expensive and time-consuming, and these murders didn’t have money stolen from the scene of the crime.

The book was interesting because it detailed what is known about many of the ax murders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, I don’t agree with his theory about a freight training hopping serial killer who eluded capture for 30 years. Just because the crimes were similar is intriguing, but not necessarily a smoking gun (or bloody ax). I just couldn’t get there…

2 stars.