No Saints in Kansas

Written by Amy Brashear
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

In 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, brutal murders are discovered in a farmhouse by two teenagers. The respected Clutter family, husband, wife and two teenage children, have been shot to death. The town and surrounding area are devastated, afraid, and everyone suspects everyone else. A newcomer to Kansas, Carly, was well-acquainted with Nancy Clutter. They attended the same high school and Carly was tutoring Nancy in math. When Nancy’s boyfriend, Bobby—the last person to see the Clutters alive—is suspected of the crime, Carly is determined to prove his innocence.

This novel reconstructs the true murders of the Clutter family—detailed in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, published in 1965—from a teenager’s perspective. Capote himself makes a brief appearance in the narrative. Carly’s father is a defense attorney, giving her access to the courthouse and the FBI agent called in to investigate. Why she is so set on helping prove Bobby innocent isn’t clear, they hardly speak to one another, and he’s a shadow in the background for most of the story. The slightly negative connotation of Nancy’s character seems unnecessary.

Carly is bold and reckless, to the point of putting herself in danger several times, but worth rooting for. She drives the story, proving that girls in this more repressive decade are as capable of detective work as boys. Recommended for teens.