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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: True Crime Addict

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray - James Renner

True Crime isn't my thing. I finally got around to In Cold Blood last year because A) I live in Kansas, and B) it's considered a classic of the genre. Otherwise, I've altogether avoided the investigation of murders, kidnappings, and other sensationalized “true” crimes.

So why read a book called True Crime Addict? Great question. I read it because the title alone promised more than your typical journalistic tale of grisly murder. This is the story of the unsolved disappearance of Maura Murray, but it's also the story of the person who became obsessed with the case. I read it also because I am a fan of Renner's fiction, particularly his debut novel, The Man from Primrose Lane, a phenomenal genre-bending force. Ironically, The Man from Primrose Lane wasn't a novel I would've picked out of a line-up of potential reads. The only reason I got started with Renner in the first place was because I was searching for a literary agent and his agent at the time happened to be my top pick. Read the books, get to know the agent, right? And so, connect the pieces and you can say that I read Renner's latest, a book I wouldn't have even considered reading just two years ago, out of my initial desire to attract an agent.

Those investigating the disappearance of Murray have many more pieces to put together and frankly, her disappearance doesn't add up. There are so many distinguishing clues that likely mean nothing. There are so many possibilities yet only one can be true. It's easy to see how someone could either get lost in her case or give up altogether. Just reading about the possibilities and theorizing over the potential overcomes left me dizzy.

But for me, this book wasn't about Murray, not really. It was about the psychosis of obsession—the need to know. Now I know some readers, particularly those who are die-hard true crime readers, probably would prefer if the author cut himself out of this book. They'll say that this book shouldn't be about Renner. It's an understandable complaint; however, I would argue that without Renner's personal story about his investigation, it is unclear how fruitless the search has been. This is a case that will likely never be solved unless someone directly tied to Murray's disappearance steps forward. It is this sort of desperation that drives Renner to such dubious acts: invading the privacy of Murray's friends and family, driving drunk on state highways, etc. No doubt some of Renner's actions are questionable, but that's what makes this book so riveting. What drives a person to kill? What drives a person to sever all ties and disappear? And what drives a person to go to the ends of the earth searching for those answers?