I approached “In Cold Blood” with a certain amount of trepidation . It was a book that I had owned for several years, but had “never got round to”; it was highly praised, but classed as “true crime”, a genre that I don’t normally read. A genre, in fact, that I steer clear of, despite enjoying a good thriller or crime novel. However, as part of a challenge, “In Cold Blood” could be avoided no longer.
The book deals with the murders of four members of the Clutter family, in November 1959, looking in detail at events prior to the killings, up to the punishment of the perpetrators in April 1965.
What makes this book so compelling is the way in which Truman Capote tells us about these tragic events. I see the structure of the book as a careful unfolding of the facts and the characters involved; a peeling back of layers until we have before us a clear picture of the whole awful episode and the characters involved. Capote goes to great lengths to examine the characters of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, giving us details of their early lives as well as psychiatric reports produced after their arrests for the murders. The victims and the law enforcers are also brought to life by Capote’s skilful use of language.
This book exposes us to terrible events, but I found it to be utterly compelling. I’m still puzzling over why it was such an excellent read for me, but think that the quality of the writing had a large part to play. Although I faced the challenge of reading it with some reluctance, it is a book that I shall remember for a long time, not least for the expertise of the author.