Treasures on the Shelves: Let’s talk about the true crime genre

Published 3:32 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Treasures on the ShelvesOne of the most popular genres is true crime. This topic has always held a fascination for readers but with the proliferation of podcasts, documentaries on streaming services, and chat room threads, true crime has become a mainstream pursuit.

One of the first books in this genre was the modern-day classic “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote. Chronicling the 1959 murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, Capote’s compelling narrative turned what would have been an obscure crime into a bestselling novel and was also a forerunner title in creative nonfiction.

In 1993, two of the most popular musicians of that era were killed just months apart. The murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls remain unsolved to this day. In “LAbyrinth” author Randall Sullivan looks at the deaths through the lens of 1990’s Los Angeles. Manufactured rivalries between record labels, resentments directed at the success of the hip-hop genre and law enforcement corruption all play a part in this gripping story.

Given the number of true crime aficionados and the vast resources available online, it’s not surprising that an ordinary citizen can turn detective and put together information that can solve a crime. This was the case with Michelle McNamara and the Golden State Killer. A journalist and creator of the True Crime Diary website, McNamara began investigating a decade-long series of crimes in California that left law enforcement baffled. Her intelligence and dedication led to new clues that were instrumental in the eventual arrest of the perpetrator. Her book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is a propulsive thriller that highlights the research and commitment that went into her investigation.

If you enjoy true crime but reading isn’t your medium, “The Staircase” is an HBOMax limited series available on DVD that dramatizes the Michael Peterson murder trial. In December 2001, Kathleen Peterson dies after falling down stairs in her home. After police begin investigating, the question becomes did she really fall or was she pushed? The series explores several different theories about her death but lets the viewer decide about guilt or innocence.

Happy reading (and sleuthing!)

Holly Howze is the branch manager for the Ripberger Public Library located in Kenbridge. She can be reached at