In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – a literary mixtape

It’s ludicrous that I haven’t read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote until now. I thought I was the only person who hadn’t read it (although Bonnie fessed up that she hasn’t either).

There’s nothing left to say about this book – it’s genre-defining; it’s clearly a touchstone for many books since (I’m looking at you We Were the Mulvaneys); it’s absolutely gripping; and it’s beautifully written.

So instead of a review, I’m going to retell the story in songs. Of course, you’ll understand my sequence of choices because you’ve read the book. Note: the Flashdance inclusion is relevant for the song title only! Continue reading

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Written on the Skin by Liz Porter

I’ve never been particularly interested in crime novels, mysteries, or courtroom dramas, and until I listened to the Serial podcast, true crime was also on the ‘not particularly interested’ list. But there was something about the meticulously produced Serial that sucked me in (and it wasn’t just Sarah Koenig’s dulcet tones). Since that time, I’ve listened to other true crime podcasts and read a few books.

Liz Porter’s book, Written on the Skin – An Australian Forensic Casebook grabbed my attention because of the chapters on the use of DNA testing in forensic science – genes are always interesting! Continue reading

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Stink. Bloody. Rotting. Decay. Putrid. Stench. Rancid. Filthy. These are the words that dominate Sarah Schmidt’s historical gothic novel, See What I Have Done. There’s also lots of sweat, bits of brains, vomit, decapitated pigeons, decomposing flesh, and blood spattered walls.

It’s the story of the 1892 axe-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Massachusetts. Forensics wasn’t what it is today – the murderer left little evidence. Eventually, the youngest daughter, Lizzie Borden, was arrested, spent ten months in jail and stood trial but was ultimately acquitted (due to a technicality and inconclusive evidence from witnesses).

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the case, nor the accuracy of the detail as presented by Schmidt (there are hundreds of reviews of this book and others related to the murders, if that’s your thing). I should point out that I am apparently the only person in the world who knew nothing about this case until reading See What I Have Done. Absolutely nothing. So again, it’s pointless commenting on accuracy but I do have thoughts on Schmidt’s writing style and the way she tells the story. Continue reading

Reading in the danger zone

kenny-loggins

Do you start singing a certain Kenny Loggins hit when you hear the words ‘comfort zone’? I do. Even though comfort and danger are pretty much opposites… Anyhoo, my comfort zone is contemporary literature. I don’t stray often but there have been some notable (and excellent) exceptions in the last year or so –

Speculative Fiction Continue reading

The top 32 from the Best Books of 2015 List of Lists

best-books-of-2015

Even more exciting (and wildly popular) than my 2014 List of Lists was my post on the Best of the Best. It was the books that appeared most frequently on all of the lists I listed. So before I have to write the words ‘best of the best’ and ‘list of lists’ again, here it is, the 2015 Commonly-Agreed-by-the-People-Who-Publish-Best-of-2015-Book-Lists-in-November top 32 books to add to your To-Be-Read stack. Continue reading

This House of Grief by Helen Garner

this-house-of-grief-helen-garner

Here’s the thing when I read true crime: I struggle to withhold my own verdict. I struggle not to cast myself as judge, jury, observer. At the same time, I really try to keep an open mind, willing the author to show me aspects of the story that haven’t already been cemented by the newspapers, 60 Minutes or similar. I’m actively avoiding sharing my own judgement in regards to the Farquharson case, the subject of Helen Garner’s latest, This House of Grief, short of saying that it’s a deeply tragic story. Continue reading