Savage Appetites (Hardcover)

Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession

By Rachel Monroe

Scribner, 9781501188886, 272pp.

Publication Date: August 20, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (8/20/2019)

List Price: 26.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A provocative and original investigation of our cultural fascination with crime, linking four archetypes—Detective, Victim, Defender, 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 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.

About the Author

Rachel Monroe is currently a writer and volunteer firefighter living in Marfa, Texas. She’s written about #vanlife for The New Yorker; a romantic con man for The Atlantic, pick-up artists for New York magazine; child abductions on the Navajo Nation for Esquire; and a small-town quilting scandal for Texas Monthly. Her work has appeared in The Best American Travel Writing 2018, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, the Believer, and elsewhere. She is the author of Savage Appetites.

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

“Monroe resists the need to sweep all of her material into a single, tidy narrative. Her prose–consistently lyrical and probing–does a lot of the work towards making it feel cohesive…In allowing for messiness–narrative as well as moral–her book is a corrective to the genre it interrogates.”
The New Statesman

"An illuminating exploration rooted in a convincing thesis, and even the most dedicated true crime reader will find something new within it to enjoy."
Buzzfeed, 29 Amazing Books Coming Out This Summer

"Monroe has written a brilliant book where cultural criticism meets sociological survey in a methodical examination of just what it is about murder that obsesses us."
Esquire, Best Books of Summer 2019

"Rachel Monroe’s searching essay collection asks all the right questions, and even better, doesn’t attempt to answer them (or at least, not completely). Why do women love true crime, the introduction asks, and posits several likely theories; each following essay takes us into the idiosyncratic existence of a woman and her obsessions, from Francis Glessner’s tiny crime scenes and love of forensic science, to Lorri Davis’ decades-long quest to free a wrongfully convicted man who later became her husband. Unsettling, brilliant, and impossible to put down!"
Lit Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2019

"I usually stick to fiction, but one standout nonfiction read was journalist Rachel Monroe’s forthcoming Savage Appetites, which looks at the connection between women and the mania for true crime. My favorite section was about Frances Lee, an upper-class Boston spinster whose foremost obsession was creating dollhouse-proportioned murder scenes that she called her 'nutshells.'"
—Lauren Mechling, Los Angeles Times

Savage Appetites is a chilling, compelling examination of the darkness in us all. This is obviously a book for true-crime fans, as well as anyone interested in human nature. A powerful, well-researched inquiry into why we find violent crime so fascinating, viewed though the stories of detective, victim, defender and killer.”
Shelf Awareness

"This is a book sure to please fans of mystery and true crime. An insightful invitation to consider the contexts and causes of a gritty cultural obsession.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Monroe's writing is superb and each woman's story is fascinating…true crime aficionados will appreciate this spin on the genre.”

"A provocative work best suited to readers with a strong interest in true crime and its historical roots…an original and bold contribution to the genre.”
Library Journal

"In Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe brings a rigorous and illuminating gaze to some of our most disturbing fascinations. Ultimately, she summons generosity and nuance for the discussion of hungers we might be tempted to dismiss entirely, asking revealing questions that are ultimately questions about the nature of desire itself: for intimacy, for freedom, for a sense of meaning. I read this book in a single day, but I know I’ll be thinking about it for years to comeespecially its keen appreciation for the mystery of what drives us through this world." 
—Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams and The Recovering

"Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe's study on ‘women, crime and obsession,’ can properly be described as brilliant. It informs, entertains, and leaves readers with new cultural perspectives that are long overdue. I'm now a Rachel Monroe fan and after you read this book, you will be too."
—Jeff Guinn, author of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

“This is like high junk reading, both getting the information, snickering at the misinformation, stalking the stalkers and really brooding on the possibility that the dead female body at the top of the film is feeding a female appetite for death and malfeasance and not yawn more jerk off fodder for men. Our corpses, ourselves!”
—Eileen Myles, author of Evolution 

"Rachel Monroe has long been one of my favorite writers at the intersection of crime and culture, and her first book, Savage Appetites, is the grand culmination of her reporting. It's a standout, formally inventive, and refreshing examination of the way we consume true crime, and the way it consumes us."
—Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

“I don’t know how Rachel Monroe wrote a book so vivid and perceptive, but I couldn’t put it down. Savage Appetites is an original: at once a thoughtful, beautifully written treatise on why women are drawn to crime stories and a gripping read to satisfy any murder obsessive. I’m not exaggerating when I say Monroe has written a new true crime classic, one that both adds to and challenges the genre.”
—Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls

"Smart and seductive. In the tradition of Janet Malcolm, Rachel Monroe has turned our cultural hunger for crime stories back on itself, both evoking and interrogating the fascinations that grip us. I learned a great deal from this book, but what’s more, I couldn’t put it down."
—Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

"A deeply intelligent, intensely gripping work of metacrime. Rachel Monroe is a brilliant new journalist with a sparkly goth heart."
—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn

“Getting pulled into a true crime story is like coming down with a fever — all at once it envelops you, then leaves you wondering what overtook you. Rachel Monroe dissects the nature of that obsession on both individual and societal levels in lucid and beautiful prose. You’ll find this book as engrossing as any true crime wormhole on the internet.”
—Michelle Dean, author of Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having An Opinion

"A brilliant book, laced with a perspective that's long been missing from the world of true crime. Rachel Monroe holds up a mirror to our fascination with illicit tales—and her own—all while deftly unspooling four unforgettable stories from the other side. Savage Appetites is wholly unique and utterly riveting."
—Evan Ratliff, author of The Mastermind

"No one writes about crime like Rachel Monroe, who brings to her subject a profound emotional acuity, a piercing grasp of fixation and frailty, and a precise sort of beauty that never glamorizes but always illuminates. In Savage Appetites, she shows crime obsession to be an equally idiosyncratic, irresistible subject—full of treachery and full of thrills."
—Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror

"I loved this book. I'm not a true-crime fan, but I am fan of brilliant reporting, nuanced cultural criticism, sparkling-clear writing, disarming wit, and the kind of courageous self-indictment that marks the best personal writing. Savage Appetites is a beautiful hybrid of a book that made me question my relationship to celebrity, media, and my own baser appetites."
—Claire Dederer, author of Love and Trouble and Poser

Savage Appetites is a marvel of original reportage and cultural criticism, and could not be more timely. Like a first responder to a crime scene, Rachel Monroe methodically investigates every inch of America’s obsession with murder stories, unearthing more than a few discoveries, and showing that what makes us tick now has been there all along.”
—Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own