Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote #20booksofsummer

Non-Fiction – True Crime 5*s

As a lover of true-crime it is shocking that it has taken me quite so long to read the one book which is arguably one of the best known and according to many the book which led the way. And what better way to relax by the pool than to read about the brutal slaying of a household of four with all aspects of the crime and its outcome dissected in the minutest and most vivid detail.

The book starts benignly enough as we travel to Holcomb, Kansas and view the house where the moderately wealthy Herb Clutter and his reclusive wife Bonnie lived with their teenage children Kenyon and Nancy. We see Bonnie through Truman Capote’s recreation of her following his exhaustive research dreading the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday as she is depressed but equally cautiously hopeful that the doctors have finally after years of suffering found a reason, and cure, for her depressive episodes which have seen her hospitalised more than once. We watch her prepare for bed in her beautiful home, we know what sits on her bedside table and all the time we know that this scene of troubled tranquillity will be shattered forever, and so it is.

This book is shocking but not because there are endless lurid descriptions of what happens after the foreign sounds shatter the Kansas night but because Truman Capote has so meticulously created within this new brand of true-crime a real feeling of character for all the players. We get to know the investigators, the other people in the small town who while they watch the investigators fruitless search for a motive and perpetrator and then eventually we meet Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. When we do get to know this pair, they aren’t presented as senseless criminals, we get to know them in-depth, we know what their childhoods were like and we get a sense of what may have led to that fateful November night in 1959.

It is the minutiae of the details especially when the spotlight is turned onto characters who in a straightforward account of a crime would barely get a mention that makes this book so rich, for instance we know so much about Nancy Clutter:

Where she found the time, and still managed to “practically run that big house” and be a straight-A student, the president of her class, a leader in the 4-H program and the Young Methodists league, a skilled rider, an excellent musician (piano, clarinet), an annual winner at the county fair (pastry, preserves, needlework, flower arrangement)—how a girl not yet seventeen could haul such a wagonload, and do so without “brag,” with rather, merely a radiant jauntiness, was an enigma the community pondered, and solved by saying, “She’s got character. Gets it from her old man.”

A stunning read which manages to simultaneously remain detached from the subject, yet so up and personal that it the story it tells isn’t with the overt disgust that the remaining Clutter family and the inhabitants of the town must have felt. So humanising is the research that Capote undertook(with the assistance of Harper Lee) that I felt some measure of sympathy, for one of the perpetrators at least, whose life had seemingly been overtaken by events. It is the contradictions of the make-up of this man which I found so troubling, it is this aspect that has lingered over the last few weeks and why I stand-up with the critics and affirm the prizes one, and confirm that In Cold Blood truly is an outstanding read.

In Cold Blood is my 6th read of my 20 Books of Summer  Challenge 2017

First Published UK: 1966
Publisher: Penguin Classics 
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

37 thoughts on “In Cold Blood – Truman Capote #20booksofsummer

  1. ” And what better way to relax by the pool than to read about the brutal slaying of a household of four with all aspects of the crime and its outcome dissected in the minutest and most vivid detail.” Hahahahaha, oh Cleo, you make vacation sounds even better!! This book sounds brilliantly written! I admit I’d never heard of it before.


  2. It is a powerful read, isn’t it, Cleo? And I agree with you that Capote drew the characters very well, so that the reader does get to know them. I’m very glad you enjoyed this one as much as you did. I’ve been wanting to put this one in the spotlight for a long time, and I’m so glad you reminded me of it.


  3. I really must get around to reading this myself one day. It sounds like a stone cold classic in every sense of that phrase. I recall seeing the film a few years ago – very powerful stuff.


  4. So glad it lived up to its reputation and was such a perfect poolside read! 😉 It’s on my Classics Club list, but I’m going to boost it to the top – like you, I don’t understand why I’ve never read it.


  5. My mother bought this book when it first came out but I was in my early teens and it was an “adult” book so I never read it until about a year ago after reading Harper Lee’s books and watching the movie “Infamous” with Sandra Bullock playing Harper Lee and Toby Jones as Truman Capote. That led me to another movie biography of Capote called simply Capote, and a mini series called “In Cold Blood”. All of it fascinating and illuminating. Really good to have a body of work giving different perspectives. I don’t think Capote would have got the interviews if it hadn’t been for Harper and she wrote up all the notes for him. Apparently their friendship rather dissolved when she won the Pulitzer and he didn’t. It is a very compelling read though. Glad you found it fascinating, too.


    1. I love it when an interest in a subject (or person) takes you on a journey – I will definitely be checking out Infamous – it’s probably just as well we don’t have to admire the author’s character to enjoy the book although Truman Capote’s churlishness was at the back of my mind throughout.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review! I loved your review more than this book, though, sadly….I found the detachment in the story to be off-putting, but the author brilliantly depicted the ordinary lives of the characters and made them all real for me. Even the perpetrators. I did see the movie based on the book…and loved it.


  7. I first read In Cold Blood in college and thought it was amazed by it. Might be time to give it another pass. Nice review!


  8. yep. a good read because Truman Capote writes it like a novel. The real shock, of course, is Harper Lee, his companion, a tomboyish girl that went on to write one of the great classics of the twentieth-century and leave Capote rather in the shade.


      1. The film gets into the way Harper Lee contributed to the book, so you should like it. I also read a Harper Lee bio which explored the relationship between her and Capote (they grew up together) and how that relationship went south.


  9. Wonderful review! Likewise, I really enjoyed this book. It is gripping, fun and a masterfully written classic. Definitely is worth a reread if I can ever make it through my brimming TBR pile!
    I look forward to reading more from you in the future… Happy Reading! 😀


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