What is it about true-crime that fascinates us? Why, over a century later, are we still fascinated with the brutal murders of five women in the Whitechapel district of London? What draws people to the life and death of notorious bank robbers Bonnie & Clyde almost a century later? Why was interest in Jeffrey Dahmer high enough to make Netflix’s series about the murders he committed from the 1970s-90s a hit show? Who will be the focus of our next national obsession and what is the next real crime that will become a form of entertainment? Daniel Sweren-Becker explores our country’s obsession with crime as entertainment in his new novel Kill Show: A True Crime Novel.
A 16-year-old girl vanishes without a trace. A decade later, to commemorate (celebrate?) her disappearance, those involved have agreed to participate in a series of oral histories documenting what happened. Each person will describe events from their own unique perspectives, providing, for the first time, the entire story of what happened, which has never been available until now. . .
In Kill Show, Daniel Sweren-Becker takes a critical look at the often microscopic line that separates crime and entertainment. He has written a fiction novel, but presents it as if it were a series of interviews with those involved conducted ten years after the woman disappeared.
Sweren-Becker does a masterful job of creating 26 characters, each with a unique voice, to relay the events surrounding the disappearance of Sara Parcell. He weaves what appear to be separate interviews into a narrative, allowing the reader to follow along and learn the “true” story of what happened. He has included a sociologist and a pop-culture expert in the cast, who regularly reflect on occurrences and provide context to how some of what happened impacted and was reflected in the greater culture over the decade since Sara vanished.
Sweren-Becker tells the story of Sara’s disappearance with an approach that “take no prisoners” and truly offers no mercy in retrospect for decisions that may have been rationalized at the time as being made with the best of intentions. When viewed in the harsh light of hindsight questionable motivations are revealed. He illustrates how, in many ways, our cultural fascination with the pain and suffering of others is often a motivating factor, causing people to take actions they otherwise wouldn’t because there is an opportunity for notoriety or financial gain (or both). He also highlights how equally problematic it is that that interest has been popularized and monetized. Pain and suffering is a business, although not a new one, and there has never been a shortage of purveyors or consumers. The only true difference now is scale and the number of people reached, almost instantaneously, by contemporary technologies.
Kill Show is a compelling, page-turning novel that will keep readers enthralled to the very last page, where they may be forced to ask themselves why.
Read an interview with the author here.