The Help Desk: A life of (true) crime

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

My wife is a true crime junkie. She started with Ann Rule when she was a teenager and now she'll read anything about a serial killer that she can get her hands on. Like, the more deranged and gross the crimes, the more into it she is.

She's super-sweet. She had your stereotypical suburban Redmond childhood. The closest she's ever been to a crime is that time the wind pulled a popsicle wrapper out of my hand and out the car window on the highway, making her an accessory to littering.

I'm starting to wonder if this true crime obsession is healthy. Sometimes she has nightmares, and sometimes she gets herself worked up over sounds in the night. It's not out of hand, but I worry all this murder and mayhem is having a cumulative effect on her psyche.

When I bring it up, she says I'm worrying about nothing, and that true crime is her release valve — how she blows off steam. What do you think about true crime?

Erik, Admiral

Dear Erik,

Although I live in a state where child marriage is still legal and flourishing, I assume you're married to an adult woman? If that's the case – if she's your partner and not a sex-obliged ward you bought at a middle school auction – then your role is to rub her back and mind your business, not police her entertainment. It could be that reading the regular ol' news about the koala-burning, hate-criming shitbasket of a world we live in is giving her nightmares. It could be that reading true crime is her coping mechanism.

I do like the genre. Studies show women especially respond it, perhaps to puzzle of how each crime is executed and criminal caught, or perhaps as an ancient survival mechanism to avoid becoming the next victim. All I know for certain is that I find it to be grotesquely empowering, like receiving a dose of bloodthirst on loan. When I look at a man afterward, I think: "I hope you don't make me make hamburger out of your man parts," because like most of modern civil society, I am eager to blame the victim.

Then I think: "But if you do, what condiments should I use?"

If you want to make your wife happy, introduce her to Snapped. Sadly, it is not a book series, but it is a true crime experience produced for the modern day woman.