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Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession

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3.74  ·  Rating details ·  4,260 ratings  ·  668 reviews
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 he
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by Scribner
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Jaidee
2 "soupy, tepid, messy" stars !!

Most(est) Disappointing Read of 2020 Award

Despite my two stars I never wanted to abandon this book. I need to point out though that this read more like an amateur true crime podcast....kind of entertaining but not well done !

This book was a bit of a hodgepodge mess. The author took four characters (not truly archetypes) and told a true crime story about them. We have the Detective, Victim, Defender and Killer. The stories themselves were mostly interesting and inc
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Diane S ☔
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019
3.5 This book was chock filled with book coincidences, it was eerie, maybe fated that I picked it up. Monroe explains the attraction reading about crime holds for many, from internet sides full of amateur crime investigators working on cold cases, to those who are attracted to the criminals themselves. Columbine, whose followers have their own groups, people who admire those two young killers of many, calling themselves Columbiners. Starting with the Manson murders, the witchcraft scare, to a yo ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Check out my review/discussion video on Booktube...

and the below review first appeared on Open Letters Review:

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,
...more
Jessica Woodbury
Let's just start with all the ways in which I have specific, subjective opinions about this book. I hate the true crime trend. I specifically hate the fandoms that have grown up around true crime. For me, it is exploitative and disrespectful, it turns real problems and pain into entertainment, and it does little to take on the very real issues of violence, poverty, policing, and bias in our criminal justice system even though all of these things are central to the real world of crime and punishm ...more
Emily
Aug 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
My standard procedure is not to give star ratings to books I don't finish, but I'm so annoyed by this book that I'm doing it anyway. Savage Appetites is a convoluted mess of a "true crime" book. The synopsis of this book sounds amazing, which is what drew me to it.

However, the back of the book says that it's a combination of personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media. What this really means is that this book is a combination of judgmental opinions that w
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Mara
Oct 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars - I've found myself thinking about this book days after I finished it, so I've bumped this from 4 stars to 4.5. I really like the case study approach this author takes to trying to explore the question of women's fascination with true crime. She explores four different women in roles of the detective, the victim, the defender, and the killer, and ultimately allows the reader to draw a lot of their own conclusions from the different stories that she wove together. All in all, very thoug ...more
Johann (jobis89)
Jul 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was fantastic. More of a “why do women love true crime so much?” and four stories of women and their obsession, as opposed to a straight up true crime book. Unique!
Valerity (Val)
Rachel Monroe’s book delves into the issue of women and their obsession with true crime. As if that’s always a bad thing. This is basically divided into four sections relating four different cases the author examines as separate cases to consider as studies. I was already familiar with the one of the heiress in the 1940’s who came up with and then crafted a dozen miniaturized crime scenes called nutshells that were used for teaching what later became known as forensics. The second chapter is on ...more
Karen Smith
Aug 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is predicated on lies and a complete failure of any moral compass.
The *true* story behind Alisa Statman's relationship with Patti Tate was never told in Monroe's book. They were domestic partners. Not roommates, not friends, not acquaintances. Statman did not 'entwine' herself or 'worm her way' into the Tate family. She fell in love with Patti and Patti fell in love with her. End of file. There was no ulterior motive, no 'obsession' with the murders, no untoward reasons for their rela
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Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
3.5 stars

Our society has become obsessed with true crime.  Podcasts, books, TV shows, websites, and TV channels devote hours to discussing crimes.  Statistically speaking, it's women who are fueling this obsession.  The overwhelming majority of true crime readers and true crime podcast listeners are female.  According to Monroe, forensic science is one of the fastest growing college majors and seven in ten of those students are female.

 Rachel Monroe has chosen four stories to discuss the history
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Audra (ouija.reads)
Aug 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: true-crime
This is one hot mess of a book.

The introduction reads like a bad article someone with an interest in true crime might dig up on the internet, read a little bit of, click elsewhere, and then forget entirely. By the time I made it to the last page (heaven help me, somehow I made it) it was more than eminently clear that whatever fascination the author might have originally held for true crime had soured. And with it, went whatever interesting magic this book might have held.

Here’s a thought: mayb
...more
Emma Eisenberg
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book 6 stars, I would--it is the book I have been waiting to read all my life <3
Monroe asks the questions about gender, sex, power, violence, and technology that I have long been asking and gives the most satisfying answers I've yet read. Her prose is stylish and urgent and I flew through this in a night and a morning. It is not trying to be a true crime book but rather meta true crime, more analytic than narrative. For those looking for such a text you won't be disappointed
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Traci Thomas
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. It’s not what I thought. The author smartly uses known true crime to share a commentary on women, crime, and obsession. So much to talk about here.
Blair
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Rachel Monroe writes so wonderfully and fluidly; I sat down to read a bit of this on my lunch hour and had made my way through a full third of the book before I knew it. Savage Appetites is composed of, as the subtitle says, ‘true stories of women, crime, and obsession’ – it’s not a true crime book per se, though naturally it often strays into that territory. The four main chapters study ‘women who were drawn in by crimes... that didn’t impact them directly, but to which they nevertheless felt a ...more
Rachelle
Sep 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"Parts of ourselves long for these shadowy places, we'll discover things there we cant learn anywhere else.."

This book left me with alot to unpack, as far as how I feel about it.. It touches a bit on the darker side of when interest in true crime crosses that somewhat tenuous line into obsession. The last case titled, The Killer, was a particularly unsettling section to read. I do feel Munroe caught something here worth exploring, it's fascinating and at times disturbing.
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Kristy K
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
While definitely interesting, this wasn’t what I expected when I went into it. This reads as a part-memoir, part-biography of women who obsessed over crime. This will appeal to the niche of true crime lovers who are fascinated by those who take their devotion a step further.

I received an advanced copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Sarah Dealy
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you slug through the meandering structurelessness of this book you will find some interesting stories. However, they are so coated in the author’s meaningless personal anecdotes, over exposition of well know cultural events and judgment of the audience she is writing about (which includes herself) - that they are hard to find. Additionally, most of the interesting nuggets in here have already been covered many times over by reporters more talented than her.
I think this author was a lover of
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Leah
Nov 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
so so good. really entertaining while still being insightful and informative. it's actually refreshing to read nonfiction that isn't memoir about women that isn't patronizing or artificially lionizing. the book uses stories of specific women and their relationships to crime to interrogate cultural myths about gender, fear, and fascination with death. if you read some amount of news about the criminal justice system, many of her points (i.e. forensic evidence is not very accurate, actually) will ...more
Robert Sheard
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this was going to be a true crime book focusing on four women criminals, which would have been interesting in its own way. But it's actually a book about four women who were obsessed with true crime itself. Monroe puts them into four categories based on whom they identify with in the crime scenario: the detective, the victim, the defender, or the killer. It's an interesting perspective in light of the fact that violent crimes in America are way down in recent years, but most people bel ...more
Lizzy (reviewsshewrote)
Aug 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is not what I thought it was going to be. I thought I’d get the stories of four different women and their different levels of crime obsession. What I got was something that read like a college essay with snarky tweets interspersed throughout. I think the initial question the books poses, why are women so crazy about true crime, really is something to ask yourself. But I found the authors voice to be very critical of those who love true crime even though she herself likes it.

This is no
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vanessa
This book was disturbing for me to read at times - particularly the last story which gave me the heebie-jeebies. I really enjoyed the author's writing: it's analytical and thoughtful and sentimental in a way. The detective and defender stories probably most resembled my interest in true crime, but every story was about something I didn't know too much about (even the West Memphis 3 and the Tate-LaBianca murders are not rabbit holes I've ever truly fallen down so each story felt new and intriguin ...more
Charlotte
I liked this book more than I thought I would as the title to me suggested it to be about some weird sexual obsession of women with killers and I’m so glad it wasn’t. The book is structured into mainly four sections and shows the different ways in how woman can become obsessed with different aspects of true crime: detective, victim, defender, killer. This book is less about the crimes itself but more like a criticism on how North American society approaches true crime. It’s tough to say what a s ...more
Cassandra Gillig
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
a quick read that wonders (but not too hard) about why people, especially & overwhelmingly women, are drawn to true crime/forensics. it's full of interesting facts & slowly builds a history of forensic science & shies away from a lot of the violence of the crimes that are mentioned which is good for me, somebody who's pretty soft & was drawn to the book because i don't quite understand true crime fandom. this really is a great book about obsession, i think, & all of its strange channels & it's d ...more
Diane Hernandez
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
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 storie
...more
Maryne Hachey
Aug 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
Journalism isn’t what it used to be, there was a time that the truth mattered especially to the writer, Authors use to pride themselves on the satisfaction of a job well done by doing their own research and not riding on the success of others.

Savage Appetite lacks Integrity,Authenticity and Originality. Monroe fails to provide factual information and lacks originality & clearly writes from a skewed point of view and misguided perspective when it comes to Alisa Statman, obviously this poorly exec
...more
ReadingWryly
Jan 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
4.5/5
What an interesting read!

I read this via audio, and really enjoyed the narrator. It is not narrated by the author as I initially thought, but it was very well done.

This nonfiction follows the true-life stories of 4 women in history who were all connected to true-crime in different ways. She uses 4 different archetypes to categorize them, and in doing so seeks to find why so many women are interested in true crime. It was well organized and thought out. While she explores many different re
...more
Samantha Luce
May 14, 2020 marked it as to-read
Well written and well researched. A great study of what makes true crime junkies tick.

The book focuses on 4 women involved with true crime in various ways. One more or less helped create modern day forensics, one is married to a murderer, and the other 2 have inserted themselves into the aftermath of the crimes.

The pacing is good and kept me reading long into the night. I'd love to read about more people obsessed with true crime and the lengths they will got to.

ARC received for an honest review
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Erin Clemence
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic version of this novel received in exchange for an honest review.

Why are women (especially) so obsessed with crime? The facts that show that women watch crime shows, read true crime novels and follow crime stories at a higher rate than men. Is it because we sympathize with the victims, or are we trying to not become victims ourselves? Rachel Monroe, through her novel, “Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, an
...more
Erin
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Alison Hardtmann
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
Perhaps true crime stories are contemporary fairy tales--not the Disney versions but the dimmer, Grimm-er ones, where the parents are sometimes homicidal, where the young girls don't always make it out of the forest intact. We keep following them into the dark woods anyway. Parts of ourselves long for these shadowy places; we'll discover things there that we can't learn anywhere else.

A friend recommended this book to me when we discussed why we like crime novels so much. What is it about the dar
...more
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Obsessed with Tru...: Savage Appetites 1 17 Sep 17, 2019 04:56PM  

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63 likes · 8 comments
“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.” 4 likes
“A distorted sense of danger isn’t just psychologically taxing; it also encourages us to perceive risk where there isn’t any. Steeping in ominous stories can make people into threats themselves. The news is full of examples of how ambient anxiety gets turned against people of color going about their daily lives—taking a nap in the student lounge; walking down the street; selling lemonade. I thought of the woman who called the cops on two Native American brothers who were on a college tour at Colorado State. The teenagers made the woman “nervous,” she told the 911 operator. “If it’s nothing, I’m sorry. But it actually made me like feel sick and I’ve never felt like that.” Many people are feeling sick these days, for many reasons. But we should all be careful about the stories we tell ourselves to explain why.” 4 likes
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