In Cold Blood
This was a hard read for me.
Before this book, I had never heard of the Clutter killings or about the convicted criminals. When faced with reading about the intricate details of the lives of a normal farming family, I knew not to get attached because this was a story about how they were murdered, but people often don't get that luxury when they know the subjects. The first thing that stuck out to me in this book is that it isn't just a case file. The author used great description in scenery and characters to make the story keep my attention as any other book would. It might be due to the book reading like a fictional piece, or just due to the fact that I've been used to reading fantasy and fiction for so long that having a brutal non-fiction about something horrible, but I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that this was real. My mindset was focusing on the 'world' the story was in, but I kept having to tell myself that this was something that actually happened to real people in the U.S.. With that being said, I wasn't sure what emotions the author was trying to portray. Usually, when thinking of murder, humans are horrified and barely want to hear about it, but this made the crimes sound like some sort of funny coincidental story (not that the situation was funny, just that there wasn't a true purpose to take the lives of 4 innocent people in such a way).
The book is split into four parts; Part One is 'The Last to See Them Alive" which describes what each member of the Clutter family did on their last day and who they saw. In between different excerpts of the Clutter family were descriptions of what Perry and Dick were doing at the same time. Part Two is "Persons Unknown", otherwise known as the culprits Perry and Dick and what they did after the murders and details of their lives beforehand as well as the ongoing investigation. Understandably, the citizens of the small town in which the Clutters lived believed that they had known the person or persons involved. Part 3 "The Answer" was how they were caught and the trial following and Part 4 "The Corner" was about the hangings.
Seeing as how I couldn't keep thinking of this story as real, I couldn't help but sympathize with the felons. Don't get me wrong, I do NOT support the killing of any human no matter what they have or have not done, but that doesn't mean that these men weren't exactly that: men. I think that as humans, we have a tendency to repress any bad feelings. For example, if you've ever thought 'oh I hate that person, I wish they were dead' most likely, that's not actually how you feel and you may feel bad for thinking that for the rest of your life, so it's hard for a person with a conscious to imagine that another human being could be capable of taking someone's life when we (others) can't even think of metaphorically doing so. We tend to think of these people not as other people, but as monsters and expect the absolute worst of their character and appearances. I think this is the reason I really loved the book, because these people were forced to recognize when going to the trial that these men looked like 'normal' men, people that you may not expect to be capable of something so immoral. In fact, when people looked at them they almost had the roles reversed. They saw Dick and thought that he seemed the more 'human', or 'normal' of the two, when in reality he was capable of even more evil than Perry (including rape, pedophilia, and common robbery), whereas they condemned Perry from first seeing him of looking 'evil' when he was actually a gentle creature when treated properly (or so the book made it seem). I actually found it disconcerting how much sympathy I started to feel towards Perry, and even found some resemblance to myself.
The only reason I didn't give this five stars is strictly because I thought it was such a weird crime to focus on. Not that there aren't other instances like this, just that it's hard to contemplate why someone would kill four people for less than $50. They came up with this elaborate plan for a robbery, only to find out that there wasn't any money in the house. There were multiple different stories for who actually killed all of the Clutters, but Perry was the only one who did the killing and all he said was that it was easy to do because he didn't know the people. I know that he would have been considered mentally ill or unstable due to the unpublished diagnosis of schizophrenia, but the fact that this was thrown out in court just blows my mind. It sounded like the people in Kansas just wanted the men dead (which I can understand with their grief), but it makes you wonder if they had read this without knowing the family whether they would feel the same. All I can say is that I'm glad that there is more leniency for insanity pleas in the courtroom now, and that the death penalty is not favored in today's society. What these men did was absolutely terrible and I think that's why this book has left me so conflicted. Either way, it was a good read and a horrible crime.
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