Crime Novel Review: 'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote
'In Cold Blood' is a classic crime novel in many senses of the word 'classic'. It begins in the small village of Holcomb, situated in Far West Kansas, America. This humble, well-to-do urban bliss is illustrated painfully by the author in the first chapter, but as a reader it is not hard to guess what is about to follow. This utopia of peace and order is soon to be disrupted by a murder that takes place in the Clutter family home, classicly the most prosperous home in the neighborhood, whose social status is typically above all others but who were looked up to and admired in the village.
The murders take place one evening – again typical of a crime novel – in which two men, Perry and Dick, enter through the back door – which was always left open to guests at any time of the day and night – and before killing their victims, they demand that they are taken to the safe, where they have previously been told that there is thousands of dollars stashed away (a familiar motive). When they are repeatedly told there is no safe by Mr Clutter, a man of great warmth and generosity, the murderers kill the family anyway, under their personal code of "no witnesses".
The cliched juxtapositions of the characters at this point emphasise the way in which the author constructs 'normal' in relation to 'other'.
Throughout the duration of the book these juxtapositions are built upon as the reader follows the whereabouts of the criminals. Both Perry and Dick's characters are developed into ruthless, cold blooded killers as the reader is informed of their childhoods, past convictions and their thoughts and feelings about the murder. Crime is at the centre of their day to day lives and they become the representation of criminals in social order.
Running parallel to the uncovering of Dick and Perrys characters, detective Dewey is struggling with the uncovering of the murders. While trying to remain strictly scientific in his investigations he also feels that it is his moral obligation to restore trust and security back in to the community. The author draws a lot upon how the murders affected the people of Holcomb and how it was up to dectective Dewey to restore confidence and order back into the village. But the pressure on Dewey builds and the sense of decay and corruption within Holcomb engulfs him as well. Dewey exeplifies in a classic crime novel "moral collapse of urban America". (pg82 of the reading)
Returning to the murderers, Dick and Perry realise they are running out of money quickly in their escape and decide to head back to Kansas to perform another robbery. When at the service station, someone spots them and informs Dewey of their wherabouts. Dewey is quick on the case and becomes the classic hero of the novel. With confidence and ease he interviews both suspects and is quick to 'call their bluff'. Dewey's ability as a detective to be "socially mobile" (pg85) allows him to get to the bottom of his inquiry and pronounce the two criminal.
At this point the process of restoration is beginning and when the boys get sentenced to the death penalty after being tried in court, order finally comes together again. The court becomes the place where everything comes together and all is trully revealed. The motives were on one level money, but on a personal level, both Dick and Perry had alternative, hidden motives. Perry saw Mr Clutters death as revenge and payback for his own misfortunes in life. While Dick, previous to their murder, had been having sexual thoughts over Mr Clutters daughter.
During the closing lines of the book, Dick and Perry become subjects of captial punishment but it is the events after the deaths of the murderers that offer ultimate closure. Dewey recalls the encounter with Susan, Nancy Clutters best friend, at the cemetry visiting the Clutters graves. Its a beautiful day and they both have a talk about mutual friends. The author hereby restores order in these last few lines by including this sense of normal everyday life coming back into Holcomb.
(appologies for the rushed attempt at a review, it took me three days to read the book and after I had finished I had other work to do, i'm not usually this bad a writer!)