In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is a non-fiction novel about the Kansas murders of the Clutter family in 1959. It follows the lives of the Clutter family leading up to their deaths, as well as describing the murders, Perry and Hickock, as they decide to rob and kill the family. Both Perry and Hickock had been in and out of trouble with the law, and in one such case heard about Mr. Clutter who owned a farm and had a safe with at least ten thousand dollars in it. With that, Hickock concocts a plan to drive to their house once they’re out of prison, rob and kill the family, and disappear. Perry has an idea of them going to Mexico to discover gold after the murders, which they decide is their next course of action. Both Perry and Hickock are described as having tolerated each other, in part because they believed they’d get a big payout. However, once they get to the house, and tie the family up, they can’t find the safe. They collect forty dollars from Mr. Clutter’s wallet, and while Mr. Clutter is tied up, Perry has a momentary psychotic episode and slits Mr. Clutter’s throat. Then, knowing there can’t be any witnesses, he shoots the rest of the family. Then, they escape from the house, begin to cash fraudulent checks, steal from stores and pawn those items off, and finally make their way to Mexico. However, due to Hickock’s spending, they find they have lost all their money, so they decide to return to the US. All the while, the detective on the case, Dewey, searches for clues in the footprints left and the photos of the crime scene. Dewey finally gets a lead when an inmate who previously bunked with Hickock had told him about the Clutter family and how he described the safe to him. Eventually, they catch Perry and Hickock in Las Vegas, where they are brought back to Kansas to stand trial. Their trial is short, with the death sentence being the final verdict. They are on death row for about five and a half years where they appeal the verdict. However, the novel ends with their hangings while Dewey observes them.
Capote masterfully crafts a vibrant and haunting world in this novel, and I felt severely conflicted with the main murderer it focuses on, Perry. It’s alluded he had some sort of schizophrenia, and had had a rough childhood. I liked how at parts of the novel, Capote takes excerpts of people’s conversations, and how both Perry views himself and the rest of the world views him. It’s imagery and conflict feel completely real, and I can see why this novel has existed in the literary cannon.
Final Rating: 5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.