Tuesday, January 4, 2011
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Book: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Recommended To: Everyone + my law geeks
I realize that I'm a bit late to the In Cold Blood phenomenon since this book was published when my Aunt was a child and she read it at the age of 12. But, my dear Aunt thought I would enjoy this book and popped it under the tree for me for Christmas.
She was so RIGHT! I don't usually read nonfiction unless it is something that I'm super interested in, like Mormons or Mount Everest, but this true story of the Clutter family and their murderers captured me right from the beginning and didn't let go. I must give a bit of a warning though, it is a terrifying book. It isn't really a secret, so I don't consider this a spoiler, but Capote tells the story of two ex-cons who murder an entire family of four in hopes of finding thousands of dollars. They walk away with 40 bucks.
One of the most powerful scenes comes at the end where a well known attorney is giving the rebuttal closing argument and asks the jury whether each of the four lives was worth 10 dollars. Wowza. That's the sort of thing that you don't stop thinking about for several days afterward.
I really liked how this book really spelled out the various tests for insanity. These murders happened at a time when the M'Naghten test was failing in the federal courts in favor of the much less restrictive Durham/product test. Honestly, the way the author described the controversy surrounding these insanity defenses made them clear to me for the first time. Oy. Thanks In Cold Blood for teaching me something that law school couldn't.
Finally, this book doesn't read like a regular non-fiction. Capote does such a good job of researching his "characters" that it feels like he was right there with the killers on their travels around the US, or with Nancy, the all-star daughter, as she ran her many errands on the last day of her life.
As you can see, this is the only book that I've given an A to so far and it was well worth it. I recommend this book to anyone who needs a refresher on the insanity defenses and to anyone who wants to read a creepy, true-crime, thriller.