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16th May
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Confession: I have never read true crime before reading this book.

Truman Capote is possibly one of the only authors who could compel someone as squeamish as myself to read true crime. Capote, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, has a style of prose that can make you care about any character, no matter who they are, no matter what they have done. Capote’s compelling prose is why In Cold Blood is such an engrossing book.

Capote begins by taking the reader to Holcomb, Kansas, a small but friendly village in which the Clutter family lives as the embodiment of the hard-working, charitable American family. The Clutters are portrayed as good people, not perfect people but a family that might be like the reader’s, or like their neighbours. Capote’s prose is that of an omniscient narrator looking back on the Clutter’s lives, already knowing what their fate will be. He narrates the last day of each member of the family, and then stops right before the murders. Throughout his narration, he switches to the perspectives of the murderers, Dick and Perry, and their lives and day before the murders.

The second part of the book focuses alternately on Dick and Perry’s lives after the murders, and the investigation of the Clutter murders by Alvin Dewey. The third part, is the discovery of the murderers and the aftermath including their execution.

What makes this book unique is that every character is sympathetic, even to some extent, the murderers. It is disturbing, but rather than justifying the crime, creating sympathy for the murderers, Perry and Dick makes their crime that much more horrific. It is like finding out that your neighbour is a killer, or your friend. This book goes down easy, but sits in your stomach sickly like milk for the lactose intolerant.

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