Book Review: Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

Amazingly enough (especially considering my interest in the macabre), I had never before picked up this classic true crime account of the Manson Murders. I’m pleased to say that I have rectified that deficiency, and that I was not disappointed in the least.

Bugliosi (who was also the lead prosecutor of Manson and his co-defendants) begins the 600+ page book with the Tate murders themselves. We follow the housekeeper as she enters the property to begin her day, the trauma of the bodies being discovered, and the movements of the police who first entered the scene. We are next led along to the LaBianca murder scene (the murder of an elderly couple also committed by Manson’s “Family”). From these two bloodbaths, Bugliosi takes the reader along through the (occasionally horribly bungled) police investigation, letting us walk along with investigators as they try to make sense of such seemingly senseless killings.

As I said earlier, Bugliosi was the lead prosecutor of the case (and occasional investigator). This is certainly in evidence as Bugliosi approaches “Helter Skelter” like a trial in and of itself. Physical evidence, witness statements, and paper trails are carefully presented and thoroughly dissected for the reader. The sheer weight of evidence eventually brought together against Manson and his family is presented here in largely chronological order, and shows just how completely Bugliosi throws himself into his work. There is a good reason why Helter Skelter is considered one of the best true crime books written (easily up there with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood).

So, grab this book and read it. For such a hefty tome, it goes by very quickly. Bugliosi’s style is intense, but highly readable. Any one who is interested in true crime will obviously love this book, but even if that isn’t your usual genre, this is a compelling read about a charismatic madman and the incredible influence he had, not only on his followers, but on the country as a whole.

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