In 1840, when Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first modern detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," an unsuspecting public scarcely realized it was witnessing the birth of a new genre that would actually become the most ecumenical of all literary forms.
Since Poe's time, the detective story has flourished among readers of every creed, class, and nationality. There are clerical detectives (Father Brown and Rabbi David Small); aristocratic detectives (Lord Peter Wimsey); sleazy detectives (Sam Spade); French, Spanish, and Indian detectives (Inspectors Maigret, Alvarez, and Chote); septuagenarian detectives (Miss Marple); and even a blind detective (Max Carrados).
Indeed, the profession has become so overcrowded in recent years that Truman Capote hit upon the idea of widening the field by transforming the fictional crime story into the factual crime story. The result was his amazingly successful In Cold Blood, which spawned a host of imitators. Today, the "true crime story" is as popular as its fictional counterpart.
Jerry Bledsoe's Bitter Blood is one of the latest entries in this new form. Bledsoe, a reporter for the Goldsboro News & Record in North Carolina, bases his tale of murder and mayhem on a group of award-winning news stories that he wrote in 1985. The book recounts a series of multiple murders occurring in 1984-85 among three prominent and wealthy...