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Criminally explained

Cover of Unspeakable Acts: True Tal
A review of Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession by Sarah Weinman

Sarah Weinman has been in and about the crime writing world for years. She's written for the New York Times and Vanity Fair as well as for more genre connected publications like Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and for the CrimeReads site (highly recommended if you're a crime/mystery fan). Her first full length book was about the connection between the book Lolita and the real life kidnapping of Sally Horner in 1948. This her second book, is mostly not her writing, but a collection of recent journalistic long-form articles by other writers.

The set of writings are all well-written and interesting and informative. Each chapter makes for the perfect amount of reading, if you, like me, have found it hard to really dive into a full-length book. Many will give you a new view on a case or crime as the writers delve deeper than most newspaper or magazine articles do. As I read the book I kept thinking of a podcast I like to listen to, "You're Wrong About..." Each of the YWA podcast episodes does a deep dive into some piece of our popular culture (like what was really going on with Tonya Harding) to give you a wider understanding of just what happened. That's what these writings did for me. And turns out I think that's what was meant to happen as one of the articles is all about Ted Bundy and is written by Sarah Marshall (one of the hosts of YWA!).

Where the collection falters a bit for me is actually in Sarah Weinman's curating of the work. Ostensibly she wants this book to demonstrate the ways in which we become obsessed with true crime, but most of the articles included aren't about that, and instead sort of still encourage that kind of interest and behavior? So her intentions make for a mixed result, but that truly is a minor point as the writings themselves hold up on their own. 

Jun 9, 2020