Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession

Ecco: HarperCollins. Jul. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780062839886. pap. $18.99. CRIME
Our fascination with true crime disturbs some—after all, aren’t we exploiting victims by enjoying the stories of their deaths? Not necessarily. With nuance and sensitivity, Weinman (The Real Lolita) curates essays that consider the explosion of interest in true crime, stories from the perspectives of victims, and tales that present new information about notorious killers. Prolific and masterful essayists explore our deepest fears, our desires, our need to be valued, and our tendency as a species to observe and learn from one another’s misfortune. Michelle Dean proves the adage “truth is stranger than fiction” with the tale of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a victim of Munchausen’s by proxy who killed her abusive mother; Alex Mar’s account of the “Slender Man” stabbings offers a rich, layered contemplation of female adolescence; Jason Fagone shadows a trauma surgeon who treats victims of gun violence; and Alice Bolin muses on why we draw a distinction between prestige true crime shows and pulpy, “lowbrow” ones. Each piece is gripping and demands attention and introspection.
VERDICT This enthralling volume insists that there can and should be humanity within true crime. Whether readers are spellbound or disgusted by the genre, this is a must.
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