Book Review — Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe

*Review may contain spoilers.

Rating: 7.5/10 (4/5 on Goodreads)

Genre: Non-fiction, True Crime

Blurb:

In Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe uses four stories about women who become obsessed with some aspect of True Crime. These four women are meant to represent four archetypes in this genre: detective, victim, attorney, and killer.

The introduction is promising and honestly, Monroe’s sentiments are pretty spot on for me and the ladies in my True Crime-ish book club, People Who Read Darkness. I particularly felt myself nodding my head during this part:

“Sometimes women’s attraction to true crime is dismissed as trashy and voyeuristic (because women are vapid!). Sometimes it is unquestioningly celebrated as feminist (because if women like something, then it must be feminist!). And some argue that women read about serial killers to avoid becoming victims. This is the most flattering theory—and also, it seemed to me, the most incomplete. By presuming that women’s dark thoughts were merely pragmatic, those thoughts are drained of their menace. True crime wasn’t something we women at CrimeCon were consuming begrudgingly, for our own good. We found pleasure in these bleak accounts of kidnappings and assaults and torture chambers, and you could tell by how often we fell back on the language of appetite, of bingeing, of obsession. A different, more alarming hypothesis was the one I tended to prefer: perhaps we liked creepy stories because something creepy was in us.”

I picked up this book because I’m in the crowd of people who love true crime– even at an early age, but in 2017, found others who were just as obsessed as I was and were sharing it openly. Finally people who get me! This of course was largely spearheaded by the boom in true crime podcasts and communities that formed from these podcasts. For many of us, this obsession wasn’t new, but was largely confined to sitting at home alone reading true crime books or watching any of the Oxygen specials on a murder or Unsolved Mysteries. So I picked up this book to again try to answer, “what’s so fascinating about true crime?”

I’ll admit that I don’t really think this book answers this, although, it is addressed in the introduction and concluding sections. To me, the four archetypes do show examples of obsession with true crime, but I think archetypes is the wrong word to describe these examples. Instead, in regard to the archetypes, it would have been really cool to see the detective section focus on female detectives and investigators (ie. those like Michelle McNamara), actual women attorneys who are involved in high profile cases, and female murders and/or serial killers instead of the example used. I guess for me, it was hard to see my obsession with true crime reflected in these “archetypes” and maybe that’s a good thing.

Pros:

  • Each story was fascinating. As a True Crime consumer, I was hooked to these stories and I must say that it is refreshing that the woman being focused on in each true crime vignette wasn’t the murder victim.
  • This book was easy to read and I felt myself agreeing with Monroe’s hesitation with some aspects of this current True Crime craze, specifically, when she was reflecting on her time at the convention.

Cons:

  • The stories of the women don’t quite fit the archetypes to me. They are more archetype-adjacent. The blurb for the book seems to be more about capturing the attention of True Crime fans than accurately describing the book, which did leave me a little disappointed.
  • Like I said in my blurb above, I wanted more (or maybe a sequel) that focuses on women who are actually in the position the archetype alludes to. I would love to hear what drew women to become detectives, crime investigators/reporters, or attorneys. I would love to hear from survivors and how they view crime podcasts or obsessions. Tori Telfer’s podcast “Criminal Broads” comes to mind, specifically, her segments on “Crime-Fighting Broads”. There’s even an episode featuring Rachel Monroe, that I found very enjoyable!

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