In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Cover ImageFinished 1-26-10, rating 4/5, true crime literature, pub. 1965

In 1959 in a small Kansas town the Clutters still living in Holcomb were brutally murdered and the murderers got away without a trace.  The community was in a panic.  Was it one of their own who had murdered this upstanding family and, if so, why?  The last one to see the family alive was the boyfriend of teenager Nancy and he took a lie detector test to clear him.  As the months went by the town was still rattled by the unsolved murders.  At the same time we were taken on a journey with the killers, Hickock and Smith, as their preparations and escape became clear, it was still uncertain what the motive might have been.

This true crime literature reads just like a novel and I love Capote’s style.  I didn’t know much about this story before I read it, just some sort of vague memory of a family getting murdered, and the outcome of the book is told right upfront.  But, that doesn’t take away from the story.  It took me back to the 50’s in Kansas and a simpler way of life, where 12 year olds drove cars on old country roads and when murders happen every neighbor close enough to get there traipsed through the crime scene.  The alternating storylines and different time frames kept the story moving along at a good pace.  The sense of the setting was so real.  I felt the remoteness of the Kansas farm and the loneliness of the road as Hickock and Smith tried to find the a place worth stopping for.

I liked it a lot and loved Capote’s writing, but I didn’t love the book.  By jumping from character to character I wasn’t really attached to any one of them, so I felt a bit detached from the whole thing.  And the end dragged on a bit for me because the motive was unsatisfying and because of the focus on the killers.  Capote almost seemed to have sympathy for them and while I didn’t mind it, I didn’t really understand it. 

I admit that I prefer The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer to this one (different story, but considered true crime literature).  Yes it’s three times as long, but I got more understanding out of it and was ultimately more satisfied.  Of course, true crime isn’t my first or even fifth choice for reading pleasure, so I’m not the target audience.

I’m glad I read it because it is a part of pop culture and I and I do plan on watching the film.

This is from my personal library and cheerfully chosen for me by Kathy, Marie, JoAnn, Molly, Sandee, Piroska, and Wendy.  Here’s what they had to say…

“Capote invented a new genre with this one.”  Kathy

“A classic true-crime.”  Piroska

“An all time classic.”  Molly

“A true classic.”  JoAnn

“A true classic!  Read it!”  Marie