Book Review: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

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November 09, 2015
For as much as I love reading about serial killers, I am always completely freaked out by the experience. Like Mindy Kaling once said, “I am just a woman who is fascinated by them because I’m scared of them.” Yep, that sums it up perfectly. So I don’t read true crime books very often because the paranoia would drive me insane, but when I do, I devour them.

Helter Skelter tells the story of the Manson Family murders from a somewhat insider perspective. I say somewhat because while the writer wasn’t a part of the Manson Family, he was the prosecutor of the case and happened to do a lot of the investigation on his own. It is a very detailed book, so detailed that it felt repetitive at times, as though the writer’s intent was to treat the reader as just another person in the jury, which seems essential when the case was based on such outlandish and bizarre circumstances, but can also get kind of tiresome.

Though as hard as it might be to believe that something like this could happen, that a large group of people would be so easily swayed and talked into brutally murdering others, all you’d have to do is read through the taped interviews and conversations, or about the way they acted, especially in court, to be convinced. This book does a good job of making sense out of something so senseless and proving that however far-fetched it all seems, it is all very real. The way it is written is very matter of fact and not sensational at all, yet you still can’t help but get that creepy feeling that someone is watching you as you read… Or maybe that’s just me? I get very easily creeped out!

The one thing that disappointed me was the part about the Trial. Since the book is written by the prosecutor of the case, I thought he would focus solely on the way he presented the case to the jury and, of course, the way the defendants acted and reacted to his accusations and he did! Though for the most part it read as self-congratulatory chapter, where he showed off what a great job he did in outsmarting and outlawyering (that's a word now, yes) the other attorneys, which is not a bad thing, I guess. I was just hoping for a more objective retelling.

This book was a fantastic read, though. It was disturbing, yet very enlightening and managed to clear up a lot of misconceptions I had about the case. If you’re into true crime at all or just want to know more about this high-profile case, or if you’re simply morbidly curious, I totally recommend reading this book. Just make sure all your windows and doors are locked before you settle down to read and maybe check the closet, too, while you’re at it. Just to be safe.

Oh and definitely don’t google, “Manson Family creepy crawl.” Trust me on that!

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