After reading To Kill a Mockingbird with my 9th grade class, I got pretty interested in Truman Capote (a close friend of TKAM‘s author, Harper Lee). After all, it has been suggested that he was the true author of To Kill a Mockingbird and as a young boy was the model for one of the most hilarious characters in the book, Dill. I was a little surprised that I had never read any of his work, so when my roommate offered to let me borrow Capote’s seminal work, In Cold Blood, I jumped at the opportunity… even though I had no idea what In Cold Blood was even about.
In Cold Blood is a true-crime story. This genre is one that I don’t often read, because, compared to fiction, it’s not nearly as exciting. The story follows the horrific murder of the Cutter family in the 1960s, and from the very beginning, you know who the killers are, so there is no suspense as in a traditional mystery novel. However, the book still made for an interesting read. I’m interested in psychology (I have a degree in it from UC San Diego and hoped to work in the field before teaching stole my heart). And this book has no shortage of mental illness – though not explicitly described or diagnosed, which was interesting as a reader with some knowledge of the field. Additionally, I found myself wondering throughout the book why the crime had been committed. In this aspect, I was left unsatisfied, but by no fault of Capote. I was looking for a reason good enough to justify cold-blooded murder of an entire family – including children. And I was destined to be disappointed because, truthfully, there isn’t a reason out there to justify such an act.
Capote’s style was unique and engaging, and I really enjoyed not only the development of the case against the two murderers, but the author’s creative and pleasing way of stringing words together. The personalities of the people in the town where the murder took place were well-developed and easy to imagine – much like his close friend, Harper Lee’s, character development in the much more light-hearted To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m interested to read more of Capote’s work – especially his fiction – to see his highly individual style at play in a different genre.
Overall, if you like the genre of true-crime, you absolutely must read this book. However, if it’s not your cup of tea, I’d consider reading another one of Capote’s gems – maybe Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I give this book 3 stars. ★★★