In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.”

3/5 stars.
Hardcover 343 pages.
Read from June 6, 2017 to June 13, 2017.

Said to be the first of its kind, In Cold Blood, was ground-breaking back when it was first published back in 1965 and was once considered the original non-fiction novel and a pioneer of the true-crime genre.

The novel takes place in Holcomb, Kansas and follows Herb Clutter, a well respected and self-made man, and his family. On November 15, 1959, Herb, his wife Bonnie, and two of their children: Nancy and Kenyon were murdered. Each of them tied up before being individually executed with a shotgun. The police were at a loss as to who would have had a motive to kill such a well-to-do family. As the story unfolds, Capote describes the two fugitives in detail and just how the police were finally able to bring them to justice.

Dick Hickock, a young man with a normal upbringing was sadly disfigured in a car accident in 1950 and as a result of his head injuries he was never quite the same. He married and left numerous wives and children behind and quickly turned to petty crime after his family could not afford to send him to college. It was apparently Dick’s idea to rob the Clutter’s as he was tipped off by a convict that use to work for the Clutter’s claiming that the family kept a safe full of cash.

Perry Smith was a different sort of character. Perry suffered a horrific upbringing of physical and emotional abuse. His father was abusive and his mother was a drunk. After their mother left their father and then passed away from choking on her own vomit, Perry and siblings ended up in an numerous orphanages were they were further abused by caretakers. Two of Perry’s siblings committed suicide as adults. Perry served in the Korean war where injuries to his legs left him in constant pain which he often treated with copious amounts of aspirin. While it may have been Dick’s idea, it was Perry who carried through with the killings of the Clutter family.  With that, Perry’s character is still by far more sympathetic, as he comes across more honest and has even said that he stopped Dick from raping 16 year old Nancy before she was killed. Capote became close friends with Perry during the time that Capote spent interviewing him for the book and it has long be rumoured if there was anything more to the relationship.

“There’s got to be something wrong with us. To do what we did.”

While this book was generally well received a the time, there were some questions as to how concise certain characters and events were depicted. Capote’s long time friend and author, Harper Lee, was his research assistant for this book and contributed more than 150 pages of notes. While Lee was placed in the acknowledgements section of the book she was not credited for her research which, apparently left her with hurt feelings. While the two remained friends after the book’s publication, they grew apart.

Lee and Capote, 1966

Learning about the men who committed such an atrocious act was really intriguing. No wonder people were blown away by its content at the time. However, reading this book in the present day does not have the same effect, making it was easier to criticize Capote’s writing style. I found the novel to be dry and was curious as to how Capote could so easily say that everything her wrote was the absolute truth. The book reads very much like a story and so it is easy to forget that these atrocious murders actually took place and that you’re not just reading another mystery novel. Considering the writing style, it is also hilarious to me that anyone could have ever though that Capote helped Harper Lee write To Kill A Mockingbird, a long held belief that was debunked in one of Capote’s letters to his aunt.

Overall, the novel was decent for its psychological qualities depictions of the murderers but without the shock value of the content, it does not hold up to today’s standards. However, it is still an iconic book, and worth reading if you are true-crime fan or even a Harper Lee fan considering the long history of her friendship with Capote.


References:

http://time.com/4230925/harper-lee-truman-capote-friendship/

http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2016/02/did_harper_lee_help_truman_cap.html

https://www.monroecountymuseum.org/#!myth-buster/ccb7

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Cold_Blood

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This novel is one of the best-selling novels of all time and has sold 100 million copies.

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 317 pages.
Read from June 4, 2017 to June 5, 2017

Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Originally published in 1939, And Then There Were None, is Agatha Christie’s masterpiece. The original title of the book was actually called Ten Little Niggers as the plot point revolves around the British blackface song by the same name. The book title was changed for the American audience and renamed after the last line of the rhyme. Any reference to ‘Indians” or “Niggers” in the book rhyme was changed to “Soldier Boys,” however the original title still remains in some foreign translations. This novel is one of the best-selling novels of all time and has sold 100 million copies.

It is the 1930s and eight strangers find themselves invited to a small and remote island off the Devon coast in England, each of them is invited under different pretences and circumstances, but all by an allusive Mr or Mrs Owen. As each of the strangers arrives on the island they are greeted by the two servants, and not by their host, which they find peculiar. They all shortly realize that it is only the ten of them on the island and that their hosts are now where to be found. After a short conversation between them, they come to realize that no one really knows who this Mr/Mrs Owns is as no one can recall directly meeting them.

As the guests explore their surroundings they find a copy of the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Soliders” in every room along with ten curious figurines in the main room.  The guests are greeted with an audio recording claiming that each of them has done something despicable in their lives and that they are going to pay for it. This message, along with the peculiar surroundings and circumstances, makes the guest feel very nervous. As they settle for dinner, one of the guests appears to choke and die, yet looks suspiciously like a poisoning. When they return to the main room they notice that one of the ten figurines is now missing.  The guests frantically realize that have been set up and are in some sort of sick vengeance or punishment game with no way of getting off the island. Who is the murdering vigilante? Will any of them survive? Are their pasts truly crimes worthy of death?

No wonder this novel is considered Agatha’s masterpiece! It is insanely suspenseful. Agatha’s misses nothing in building up the mystery of this book. From the emotional depth of the character’s back stories to their dynamic personalities and logical wherewithal to try and survive their curious and dire situation. It is not an easy mystery to solve either. Just when I thought I had it figured out the ending left me with my jaw hanging. I could not put this book down.

If you are a mystery lover and have not read this book then I suggest that you dash to your nearest book store, library or e-reader and get yourself a copy now. Even for those who do not like mystery or are first time Agatha Christie readers, read this book. It is short and awesome and you won’t regret it.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

My first Agatha Christie novel.

The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 274 pages.
Read from April 10, 2017, to April 26, 2017.

I’ll admit, I always thought that Agatha Christie novels were meant for little old ladies and the biggest reason I picked up one of her novels is that there are 2 books of hers that consistently show up on some of the best to-read book lists.  Having learned a little bit about this interesting woman, I can see however, that she was a complete badass.

Did you know that he first husband was cheating on her and that when she found out she disappeared for 11 days? As a best-selling novelist her disappearance made a lot of waves and sparked a massive manhunt. The police obviously had to interrogate her husband, meaning he would have to spill the beans on his affair, making it so that he was the one who was disgraced, not her. Well, that is just speculation. No one really knows what happened as she showed up completely fine at a hotel after her 11 day stint with no clues to as to her disappearance.

Also, did you know that Agatha Christie has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling novelist of all-time? The Bible and Shakespeare are the only other publications to out do her. Her works have sold over 2 billion copies and has been reportedly translated into 103 different languages.  Agatha Christie is the original in “who done it” stories and her legacy is a testament to her skill.

Hercule Poirot is a famous detective who is on a train for business. While he was expecting a quiet trip the train ends up being shockingly full with a mismatch of interesting characters. Unfortunately for all of the passengers and snow storm has stranded the train from reaching its destination. During the stall one of the passengers is murdered in their bed, a seemingly impossible feat if the passengers are being truthful. Hercule must solve the diabolical situation before the train moves and reaches its destination.

While admittedly I thought I had solved aspects of the mystery I could not have imagined the depth of the truth of the real crime. The ending was admirable and satisfying as well.
I did find this book intriguing but it was too methodical for my liking. Most of the story was a just a recounting of the passengers whereabouts during the murder and then how Hercule would use this information to move to the next step. As in it was literally, if A, then B, if B than C or if A and B than C etc.  However, the book did not put me off reading further books by Agatha and story was still a good mystery.

If you are a mystery buff and have not read this book yet make sure to throw it on your list. Agatha Christie inspired generations of mystery writers and this one is said to be one of her best. There is also a movie coming out soon starring a plethora of stars. Check out the trailer here.