The Anatomy of Desire

Morrow. May 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780063041929. $27.99. THRILLER
This modern reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy by Dorn (TV writers/producers Matt Dorff and Suzanne Dunn) takes readers through the intimate details of a mysterious drowning and the sensational trial that follows. A witness spots rising social media fitness influencer Cleo Ray fleeing the lake where a woman drowned. Beck Alden told her mother she thought Cleo would propose to her at the lake, but Cleo had other intentions. During the investigation before and after her arrest, and subsequent trial, both the prosecution and defense highlight Cleo’s tough childhood, the foundation for her disastrous choices. Raised as Claire Griffith by her devout missionary parents, she fled her Midwestern life at 15 and reinvented herself in California. Cleo’s desires behind her rise to fame and her ultimate unraveling are revealed as the trial unfolds. The novel is written in a docuseries format, jumping from testimony to inner thoughts to documentary statements of various participants in a fast-paced narrative.
VERDICT For fans of true crime and podcasts such as Serial, this riveting mock podcast docudrama ratchets up the suspense as readers glimpse every angle of the story from a 360–degree view.
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