This week's best from the true crime blogroll is posted at The Trenchcoat Chronicles: Carnival of True Crime No. XXVI. This collection of crime posts is so large that every aficionado is sure to find a story of interest.
It's dawned on me over the years that each true crime reader has highly specific tastes. Some people are engrossed by serial killers. Some enjoy stories in which science solves the crime. Some of the Dominic Dunne school will follow any murder in the upper classes. Some avidly follow stories of the disappeared. Yet others still follow the classic rules for the study of murder laid down by DeQuincey. The cable networks will follow any story involving a beautiful blonde.
And then there are the cases that seem to have near-universal appeal. In this category I'd put any murder case involving a bizarre family -- the more obviously mentally ill, the better. I'll confess to a fondness for psychiatric records myself. When I was in the active practice of law, these were my favorite reads. Whenever a pile of paper landed on my desk from a psychiatrist or mental hospital, I put everything else aside. Find a murder cases involving characters straight from the state ward and you're sure to find an audience.
I recently read a new crime paperback, Witch: The True Story of Las Vegas's Most Notorious Female Killer by Glenn Puit. The murderess in question, Brookey West, killed her mother and then put her body in a garbage can and put the can in a rented storage locker. (Not an organized offender.) West was a practicing witch (once spotted by a freaked-out neighbor walking down the street dressed in medieval costume) but this is the least of her bizarre habits. The author describes the story's appeal:
A decomposing corpse in a garbage can is the perfect story for television news. It is bizarre, gruesome and shocking--a guaranteed ratings-booster that seizes on the morbid curiosity found in every one of us. The idea of someone melting away in a garbage can is unfathomable, an image of brutality beyond the everyday human experience, and when we see such horrors on the six p.m. news, we predictably react with disgust, condemnation and outrage. But deep down inside, we want more. We crave for the latest update like a crackhead searching for the next hit off that glass pipe.
I wouldn't call that the perfect analogy. All true crime fans -- addicts?
But maybe I can't quibble... I read the whole book in an afternoon.