In Cold Blood is a creative non-fiction book documenting the solving of the murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. This book is not so much a “who done it?”, but rather a “why?” or “how?” this seemingly perfect family was murdered by complete strangers.
The book starts out at the scene of the crime, describing the family’s last moments before the unthinkable act. But after the initial exposition, the narrative is contently switching between chapters between the victims and townspeople and the murderers (Dick Hickock and Perry Smith). This narrative switch allows the reader the ability to understand Hickock and Smith’s side of the story, a point of view that is often left out of most murder mysteries. Their narrative also includes their backstories, providing just as much, if not more, information about the murderers than the victims.
The story takes the reader to the shock of Holcomb, the escape and journey of the killers, the work of the detectives, all the way up to the capture and punishment of Hickock and Smith.
In Cold Blood, both in style and in subject, is unlike anything that I have ever read and I mean that in the best way possible. The book has earned its label of “creative non-fiction” by recounting the true facts and events in a way that reads like any other fiction murder mystery. This unusual style of writing keeps the reader engrossed and in suspense, all the while in complete shock that this is a true story. Including the perspectives of the murderers elicits a weird sympathy for them, while also fueling the hatred towards the people who took four innocent lives.
The story touches on such ideas as: what makes a person evil? Does the ability to kill come from nature or nurture? And, to what extent can we sympathize with killers? In Cold Blood is a gripping story from beginning to end, and will in captured lovers of both fiction and non-fiction. I recommend this book to any fan of suspenseful novels, detective work, or the reasonings and motives of killers.
Book Review by Amelia Gulding