My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Shame on me for not reading this sooner! It seems like I’ve raved forever about the effect this book had on true crime and the bravery of Truman Capote in breaking new ground, but never did I think there was anything in it for me now. After all, it’s a fifty-year-old book, and true crime has been done, well, to death.
But Capote’s retelling of the events leading up to and beyond the brutal and senseless murders of the Clutters is nothing short of brilliant. It’s simple yet effective. A warm emotive story of normal life meeting cold violence.
Capote captures mood – this, a snapshot of the cold-blooded drive across county lines to commit this gruesome crime in a part of the country known as ‘out there’:
They skirted the southern rim of the town. No one was abroad at this nearly midnight hour, and nothing was open except a string of desolately brilliant service stations.
And he encapsulates how little we know our friends and neighbours, indeed ourselves, as this quote from a cafe owner shows:
“One old man sitting here that Sunday, he put his finger right on it, the reason nobody can sleep; he said, ‘All we’ve got out here are our friends. There isn’t anything else.’ In a way, that’s the worst part of the crime. What a terrible thing when neighbours can’t look at each other without kind of wondering! Yes, it’s a hard fact to live with, but if they ever do find out who done it, I’m sure it’ll be a bigger surprise than the murders themselves.”
I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the unlikely behaviours, reactions, and beliefs of some of the people involved, and having to remind myself this is non-fiction. These crazy things actually happened. Like the convenient stupidity of one of the murderers, in not only keeping the shoes that made the bloody footprints, but packaging them up with his name on the box. Or the depth of detail some people remembered. Or the way the townsfolk had their own suspicions (the cafe owner even suspected one of the victims; and the grieving, heart-broken, soul-destroyed boyfriend of another of the victims was an early suspect).
I laughed sardonically at what one of the murderers said when asked why he thought people accepted his bad cheques:
“The secret is: People are dumb.”
This from an idiot who did what he did, for the reasons he did.
I cried when we finally reached the recounting of the killings themselves. I felt the same as the investigator Dewey did – sympathy for Perry, but neither forgiveness nor mercy.
This is a truly incredible book, worthy of its place in history for so many reasons.