Savage Appetites

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I must confess I am a woman obsessed with true crime and so perhaps that colors my impression of this book. I found it did not explore the idea of the "why" as in depth as I would have liked, and I found some of the author's generalizations off putting. However, it was still an enjoyable and informative read.
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This book made me see a different side of how people can be obsessed with murder or just the thought of it. It was a really interesting read and I like that it had multiple stories. The more I read the more I couldn't put this book down. It's a little scary to know that there are people that can get a little too obsessed with just even the thought of murder. This is a great read if you are into true crime.
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The central question in this book is something I have spent a heckuva lot of time thinking about. Did Monroe answer it-- or at least approach an answer? Not really. Did I find the book readable and interesting? For sure. True crime fans won't find any new stories here, but they may find kernels of insight. I did.
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This is a phenomenal book. It would be a valuable read for anyone, but essential for anyone with an interest in true crime.

Through personal reflection, the weaving of four distinct (nonfiction) stories, and broader research, Rachel Monroe explores the fascination with true crime, the reasons for the largely female fan base of the genre, and a handful of ways obsession can manifest.

A fan of the genre herself, Monroe isn’t afraid to turn a critical eye to her own interest, and she provides sharp insights amid compelling retellings of fascinating stories. 

I’ve seen some reviewers complain that they already knew the stories being told. I don’t know if they meant the original crimes or the stories of the obsessed women – in my case I knew all of the former but none of the latter – but it’s a shame if they didn’t give it a chance for either reason, because Monroe’s storytelling is engrossing and her insights are unlikely to be exactly everything a reader has come across before.

I’ve also seen some readers complain that Monroe criticized aspects of CrimeCon. This is an even bigger shame, because readers who are that defensive about their obsessions are exactly the people who should be reading this book with an open mind. Monroe isn’t casting judgment on people for having a “weird” interest; she’s carefully deconstructing her own morbid interests and exploring how they sit within a wider historic trend. She does it skillfully and thoughtfully, and I will likely reread this book over the years to reexamine her insights. 

I would absolutely recommend this book to nearly anyone, but especially anyone with an interest in crime.
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I honestly thought this book was the literary equivalent to Snapped. It’s a collection of true crime stories ranging from Charles Manson to the Columbine high school massacre. The author dives into the deep stories of women who are obsessed with these type of crimes and the men who commit them. 

I went on this huge true crime kick a few years ago and spent hours and hours reading about different murders including Manson. What this author does with this novel was provide an insightful backstory surrounding these events. Despite knowing extensive details about a couple of the cases presented in the book, I did read about a few I wasn’t familiar with including the West Memphis 3. 

The research the author presented was impressive. She took real time in learning each story and even traveling to different locations in order to speak to key people. I can appreciate her hard work. It was a good book. I think it would sit better with amateur true crime enthusiasts. Thanks Scribner for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review via @netgalley
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This is a fantastic book centered around women and their fascination with true crime. The author separates the book into four different stories Detective, Victim, Attorney, and Killer. I found each story interesting in its own way and really appreciate the amount of detail and observation given for each perspective. Even with each section being dense I do find myself wanting to learn more about most of the cases she covered and became a bit introspective with how she ties everything in with true crime and the women obsessed with it.
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I really wanted to like this book. The concept sounded interesting. However, once I started trying to read it I felt really annoyed. The narrator went to a crime convention it seemed to just end up painting everyone attending the convention with the same brush. By that I mean she seemed to not think highly or well of anyone at the convention. Once I got into the first chapter, I sadly became very bored. The writing wasn't interesting and I just was not compelled to want to read further. I do agree with the author's intentions to try to go a little more beyond the true crime stories that we see everyday or to call out the fact that people who are at most risk for crime have stories whom are rarely told (black men, sex workers, etc.). I also agree that the true crime "fandom" can get a little out of hand in regards to some merchandise they will try to sell online (especially those that depict serial killers or make light of serious crimes). That being said though, I don't think the book overall worked and I feel like it was trying to shed light on the truth but instead ended up more of a not well written call out. If the book was about the stories that Monroe wanted more people to know about then I think that would be an excellent book. However, from what I did read the story overall felt like she was just complaining/stereotyping other people in the true crime fandom and talking about cases were things were taken too far like that was norm. For a book that wanted to show that the stories many true crime podcasters or people in the true crime fandom talk about are not what most true crimes are, I feel she did something similar in talking mostly about the people that take true crime too far (note: though I am not 100% aware if she did talk about much good in those who are interested in true crime as I did not finish the book) . I am going to stop now because I don't want to rant too much, but I just feel like in the end this book was not a well written critique of true crime or even a book where we'd get to hear more about crimes that are admittedly not reported on as compared to others. Though I really wish it was.
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I've often wondered where my love for true crime comes from and what this obsession means about my personality. Rachel Monroe had the same wonderings and wrote this nonfiction book about the different aspects of true crime and why some people are drawn to it. The book is divided into four parts:

1. The Detective - focusing on Frances Glessner Lee (the female pioneer of forensics who built miniature replications of crime scenes in the 1940s)
2. The Victim - revolving around Sharon Tate and her role as a victim of the Manson family 
3. The Defender - which talks about the case of the wrongly-convicted West Memphis Three (and the story of how a 'normal' woman got married to a prison inmate)
4. The Killer - which describes a relationship between two potential mass murderers (one of whom is a young girl obsessed with online forums dedicated to killers)

While well-known cases like Tate and Columbine are described in detail, there was so much to learn in this book (even when events were over-reported on by the media). Monroe's style of writing was perfect for a non-fiction book - there was absolutely no dryness or piling on of unnecessary details. In fact, I gobbled each page up as if I was reading a fast-paced thriller. I also loved how Monroe brought her own experiences as a journalist and true crime fan into the story - this was a helpful throughline to tie all of the separate cases together.

I absolutely recommend this book for any true crime fans out there (especially women like me who love Nancy Grace and a good Forensic File rerun). I'll be eagerly anticipating Monroe's next book!
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In early 2017, the American cable television network Oxygen officially rebranded and started featuring almost exclusively true crime programming. The channel had always been directed toward women, but network executives noticed that the lifestyle shows they were airing weren't connecting with a viewership who was busy inhaling increasing amounts of crime stories through movies, podcasts, and books. Their ideal audience had caught the crime bug, and they figured it was time they got a piece of that action.

The choice to change lanes with their brand was clearly a financial one as they chased on the heels of the true crime trend, but they showed little interest in precisely why this type of content was resonating so deeply with today's women. That question may not have intrigued the Oxygen network, but it went on to inspire journalist Rachel Monroe to tackle the mystery of the appeal of mysteries in her new book Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession.

Monroe unfolds the true crime enigma like a map, which she divides into four quadrants. In each of these, she describes a female archetype connected to a crime: the detective digging into the details of a case, the victim's loved one yearning for resolution, a tireless advocate defending the wrongly accused, and salaciously, even the killer plotting their hateful crime. She uses a true story to embody each of these four roles, immediately scratching the reader's probable itch for crime drama, even when it's within a book that is itself a larger discussion of exactly these kinds of stories.

The women chosen to be under the spotlight in this book don't have any blood on their own hands, yet crime shapes a part of each of their identities. A crime scene miniaturist insists on being involved in improving a police force, although perfectionism gets under the skin of many, including the first FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. A former tenant of the guest house adjacent to the location of the Sharon Tate murders becomes so enraptured by the case that she elbows her way into a relationship with the Tate family. A documentary inspires a woman to believe unquestioningly in a convicted murderer's innocence, eventually establishing a written correspondence with him and falling deeply in love. And finally, a young misfit asserts her inherent superiority over others online, growing an admiration for the Columbine shooters and planning her own massacre with her Internet boyfriend.

At the heart of each of these stories is the powerful throbbing of obsession. It drives each of their actions, but to very different ends. This theme touches nearly every talking point, challenging readers to rethink their own mental image of fixation. Merely hearing the word “obsessed” within a crime story causes images of dark figures, swaying ominously outside artificially-lit rooms, to creep into vision. When really, the emotion wears drastically different masks and each of these women have their own style of it. While the reader may be able to be critical of some of the actions of these four, complete condemnation will be challenging. These ladies may have fallen down their own rabbit holes, but so have the crime obsessed media-bingers among us. 

The author is far from a judgmental outsider.  She doesn't attempt to pretend she's peering into the fishbowl: she's a crime junkie herself and, like many others, can't help but wonder if society is correct in thinking that ladies like herself, who find themselves absorbed by such dark material, must have something deeply corrupted inside. Interspersed throughout the book's compelling true stories are our author's descriptions of her own history with the genre and her connections to the same archetypes she's outlining. It allows a steadfast vein of relatability to run through the entire work, especially as Monroe describes her own bizarre experience at Oxygen Network's three-day crime dramatization spree, CrimeCon, during which she never seems to know if she is actually enjoying herself:

I wasn't sure how to feel about CrimeCon – or this so-called true crime boom. Being 	surrounded by other people who shared my most morbid interests should've made me feel at home. Instead, it made me uneasy for reasons I couldn't put my finger on.

It's this internal contradiction that fuels the central discussion. Slowly and quietly through this book, Monroe ruminates about what might motivate today's women to consume such a media diet. As an attempt to explain the fervor for the horror, a whole array of theories are spread out, buffet-style for the reader. Is it a woman's flair for the dramatic that draws her into a scandal? Does she get an emotional high off of the aching empathy she has for the victims? Is she trying to learn by example how best to avoid being the victim of such a crime? Perhaps the compulsion to consume these crime stories isn't any one of these things, but something unique for every individual. Could it be that, similar to the way that psychologists argue that adult romantic relationships are the arena in which we seek to resolve lingering traumas from childhood, crime stories are a way to help define our own roles within society?

Regardless of which explanation for these violent crime story obsessions will seem most plausible to the reader, the book thoroughly entertains. Monroe is the perfect guide through these well-researched stories, using personal experiences, psychological insights, and historical context to direct us. True crime fans, guilty pleasure and unapologetic readers alike will want to dive into this book to try to determine what inspires their own love of the genre. In an enormously satisfying way, this book has just the right recipe to become the crime fanatic's newest obsession.
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Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this one. It ran the gamut from interesting (the nutshells) to disturbing (the Columbiners) to boring (the Tate "friends"), but the author's autobiographical asides were awkward and confusing. She loves watching true crime television shows but hates herself for liking them. She goes to CrimeCon but is upset because... it's a bunch of people talking about crimes? I guess I just don't understand her motivation for writing this book. #arc #netgalley #savageappetites
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Rachel Monroe's Savage Appetites is divided into four sections: The Detective, The Victim, The Defender, & The Killer. She explored these as archetypes & explores herself as part of each archetype as well. She considers such questions as "Why are women intrigued by true crime?" and grounds her analysis in a true story.

What illuminated the most for me as a reader was The Killer, because of our current societal discussion about mass shootings. As Monroe says in the introduction, "The murder stories we tell, and the ways we tell them, have a political and social impact, and are worth taking seriously...When read closely, they can reveal the anxieties of the moment, tell us who's allowed to be a victim, and teach us what our monsters are supposed to look like" ("All Crime All the Time"). 

If you enjoy true crime I highly recommend this book for it's depth of research and analysis coupled with compulsive readability.

*I was given an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.*
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Why is obsession with true crime thought of as a female obsession? Is it feminist? Why are some women drawn to true crime? Are they murderers in waiting? Are they just gruesome weirdos? 
These are some things that I thought about as I read "Savage Appetites." 

I didn't necessarily get all of my answers, but I did learn that in crime stories there are 4 main archetypes, and they also apply to the true crime squad. The 4 archetypes are; the Detective, the Victim, the Defender, and the Killer. Monroe explains each one in "Savage Appetites" and then gives us a small piece on a woman they apply to, and also how that archetype has affected her life personally, 

Each one was interesting to me and I devoured them all, taking breaks to tell my friends why they needed to read this book or look up this person or case. I wholeheartedly recommend this one to anyone who loves true crime and has ever taken time to reflect on why. 

5/5 *I received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my review.
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Psychological archetypes and crime fiction are melded in the true crime tales presented in Savage Appetites.

The four tales here describe the mother of forensic science, who did not have a formal scientific background. Another tale describes a person fascinated by the Manson cult’s murder of Sharon Tate. The third tale focuses on the love between a woman and a convicted killer. The final tale shows how online crime websites may encourage fans to kill others.

Fixation is the link between the stories in this book demonstrating the archetypes of detective, victim, attorney, and killer. However, for me the best part was the book’s excellent beginning. It describes the author’s trip to CrimeCon, a convention for true crime addicts. I thought the Con sounded wonderful. As a minor true crime addict (just watching documentaries—not committing actual crimes), it sounded like fun. However, as I kept reading the book, the author’s point-of-view began to change. It piled all true crime addicts in one crazy boiling-over pot. I truly do not think that every person that views Making of a Murderer on Netflix will go as far as obsession and even murder. I also didn’t like the author inserting her feeling about the people in the book. An author should make her case by showing the facts—not by  shoving the point down the reader’s throat. 

Overall, Savage Appetites is a miss for me and will probably feel the same for most true crime fans. If you are thinking of emulating a true crime documentary, this might be a good choice. 2 stars.

Thanks to Scribner Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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The book was okay - not bad, but a little broad. It took a while before I felt like I understood what drew the disparate stories together, and the second installment especially was a little confusingly narrated.
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Thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

I've found the "boom" of true crime in the last few years to be strange, especially when members of fans who seem to use the grisly details of someone else's violent death as grist for the mill of personal empowerment.  Rachel Monroe seems to share my skepticism, given the intro and outro of the book which take place at CrimeCon, but also sees more to why people (and in particular, women) get so into things like this and the field of forensics.

Across four stories, we see how women's fascination with true crime led to the formation of forensics as a field, helped get the story of Sharon Tate's family out in the press beyond the major narratives, helped exonerate the West Memphis 3, and (in a nice twist on the previous three stories) helped plan a (largely unsuccessful, but still!) school shooting in Canada thanks to murder fandom.

The book is an easy read, with each story sketched out too the perfect extent to communicate what it needs to as it relates to our current obsession with true crime.  Rachel Monroe's weaving in of her own story and experiences helps brings this to light in every chapter.
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I thought I might enjoy this because I occasionally read true crime. Well, these people are on a whole other level and it kind of creeped me out. These women, and apparently many more out there, really are obsessed and that changes their lives in ways that are not at all healthy. This is an interesting book, but I will definitely wait until the bad taste leaves me to pick up any further true crime books.
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An interesting book for the true crime fanatic! There's a lot of true crime titles coming out this year but this was unique.
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If you enjoy true crime books (Ann Rule was my favorite true crime author) and podcasts (My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, Sword and Scale) as I do, Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe needs to be on your Must Read list!

In this illuminating exploration of women, violence, and obsession, Rachel Monroe interrogates the appeal of true crime through four narratives of fixation. In the 1940s, a frustrated heiress began creating dollhouse crime scenes depicting murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. Known as the “Mother of Forensic Science,” she revolutionized the field of what was then called legal medicine. In the aftermath of the Manson Family murders, a young woman moved into Sharon Tate’s guesthouse and, over the next two decades, entwined herself with the Tate family. In the mid-nineties, a landscape architect in Brooklyn fell in love with a convicted murderer, the supposed ringleader of the West Memphis Three, through an intense series of letters. After they married, she devoted her life to getting him freed from death row. And in 2015, a teenager deeply involved in the online fandom for the Columbine killers planned a mass shooting of her own.

Each woman, Monroe argues, represents and identifies with a particular archetype that provides an entryway into true crime. Through these four cases, she traces the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting. In a combination of personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Savage Appetites scrupulously explores empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of violence.

The stories focus on four archetypes of females- detective, victim, attorney, and killer. Savage Appetites looks at each of these types with detail and insight which I found fascinating. I highly recommend this book if you have a desire to learn about the darker side of human nature, what makes us gravitate towards these murders and mysteries?

Due out on August 20.
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In this true crime novel Rachel Monroe researches the appeal of true crime by putting focus on four archetypes: detective, victim, attorney, and killer. She attaches each of these archetypes to four true stories about women who were driven by obsession. Monroe follows the history of American crime using forensic science, victims roles, satanic cults, online detectives, and school shootings. 
I am a lover of all things true crime so when I was given the opportunity, through NetGalley, to read and review this upcoming true crime novel. The synopsis was great and really got me excited to read this book. This book is extremely interesting as it goes very in depth while talking about the four women and the archetypes that they correlate with. They were women that I had not heard much about but their stories are so interesting that I was instantly hooked while reading. I wanted to know more about them and I feel like Monroe did an excellent job at providing not only information about the women but also what happened to each one at the end of each chapter. 
On Goodreads I rated this book a 3/5 because although I really enjoyed reading this book and learning information about the different women I feel like there wasn't a good tie to the archetypes that Monroe was focusing on. She did an excellent job at explaining the archetypes and how each woman identified with them but I felt like there was a lack of explaining how these archetypes tie into the true crime obsessed. It felt more like this book was about the 4 women and their crimes rather than about how these women are linked to why there is a rise in true crime obsession. However, this is definitely a book that I will be recommending when it gets released on August 20, 2019 because, like I have said over and over again, the cases are just so interesting! 
True crime fiends please keep a lookout for this book; you will really enjoy it.
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Shocking and informative, Savage Appetites was a very interesting read.  I enjoyed reading the stories of all four of the women, but I most liked learning about Frances Glessner Lee and her crime scene models.   Monroe does a good job at linking these stories with major happenings of the era, but at times it detracted from the story (I personally think that she spent too much time on the Satanic Panic of the 1970s than what was necessary).  Savage Appetites is also a quick read at fewer than 300 pages, which often isn't the case with true crime books.  Fans of true crime will be excited to see this book.
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