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Savage Appetites

Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession
Narrated by: Jayme Mattler
Length: 8 hrs and 27 mins
Categories: Nonfiction, True Crime
4 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A provocative and original investigation of our cultural fascination with crime, linking four archetypes - Detective, Victim, Attorney, Killer - to four true stories about women driven by obsession.

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 bored 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-90s, 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 20th and 21st century, Savage Appetites scrupulously explores empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of violence.

©2019 Bright Bell LLC. All rights reserved. (P)2019 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Editorial Review

So that’s why I’m like this…

I’ve been fascinated by true tales of the dark & macabre variety for as long as I can remember, but I have to admit, there are times when I didn’t feel particularly good about sharing that fact. Outwardly, I think I’m a pretty cheery person (fellow Editors, don’t @ me), so what draws me and so, so many other women into such dark stories? Enter Rachel Monroe, who had the very same question about herself. She presents four fascinating, sometimes deeply disturbing, tales of four women who also devoted their lives to crime in very different ways: from the famed forensic miniaturist Frances Lee Glessner to the landscaper who fell in love with an incarcerated man on Death Row. Intertwining these tales with her own observations and experiences, she offers intriguing, if not perfectly comprehensive (because what’s life without a little mystery?) theories about what makes true crime just to irresistible. I saw a lot of myself in this listen, for better or for worse, and Jayme Mattler’s narration is lively and familiar—like listening to a good friend gush about the current case they can’t get off their mind. —Sam D., Audible Editor

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  • sav
  • Philadelphia
  • 09-02-19

A bit disappointed..

The book starts off strong but it seemed as if she should have developed her ideas more before publishing. I almost felt as if this was more of an excellent draft than a complete piece. It ends on a very unsatisfying note, as well. It seems like a hastily wrapped up ending.

SPOILER ALERT: The main problem with this book is that she spend way too little time going into the psychological dynamics at work when discussing how these women are identifying / relating to true crime. The story that she does this the best is the last one but the point that could be made with that case is marred by her overlong attention to the details in the letters between her and her accomplice (you don’t even find out what she thought after her boyfriend killed himself and their plot was stopped).

Another weak point: the author spends large sections of the book including things that, though very interesting, are never quite related back towards the main points of the chapter.

She introduces an excellent point, such as women getting into true crime so they feel they can be in control of frightening feelings of victim-hood...but then doesn’t really explore that in detail. She talks about women identifying with violent men as a way to work out their own vengeful feeling via proxy...but then doesn’t really develop that enough either.
Also, the “experiment” she talks about in the end sounds like bullshit. If anything, I would expect the women to try something in which they turn the tables. Otherwise, it sounds like taking a self-defense class in which you only get the crap kicked out of you but never learn how to defend yourself.

I wanted her to spend a little more time equating what the (mostly) white, middle-class and above young men from “good” families with women who also came from a similar background have in common. All of these women have something in common with their male counterparts.



3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Ugh.

Disappointed. Could have been interesting, instead author’s self-indulgent insertion in stories drowns book. Too bored to be bothered with inanity, I did not finish. Lots of eye rolling as I tried to get through it. Weird riffs such as mocking the phrase “innocent victims” and convoluting these stories with heavily biased politics. Offensive at times.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Overly Liberal opinion piece

If you hate Trump as much as this author, you’ll love this book. I’ve heard more blame put on our President than on the criminals and rapists themselves. The chapter about the thumbnail crime scenes is very nice, but nothing you can’t find with a few minutes on Google.
I’m not sure why authors feel the need to alienate half of their potential readers. Why write a book about true crime and put far too much emphasis on one sided political opinion?
I’ll be returning this trash.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful