Book Review

The Anatomy Of Desire

The Anatomy of Desire

  • Author: L.R. Dorn
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Publication Date: May 11, 2021
  • Publisher: Harper Audio

Thank you to for providing me with a copy of this audiobook. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: murder, homophobia, death, addiction, rape

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A modern tale of American striving, social media stardom, a fatal love triangle, and a young woman on trial for murder—a mesmerizing reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s classic novel of crime and punishment, An American Tragedy.

Claire Griffith seems to have it all, a thriving career, a gorgeous, successful boyfriend, a glamorous circle of friends. She always knew she was destined for more than the life her deeply conservative parents preached to her. Arriving in Los Angeles as a flat broke teenager, she has risen to become a popular fitness coach and social media influencer. Having rebranded herself as Cleo Ray, she stands on the threshold of achieving her most cherished dreams.

One summer day, Cleo and a young woman named Beck Alden set off in a canoe on a quiet, picture-perfect mountain lake. An hour later, Beck is found dead in the water, her face cut and bruised, and Cleo is missing. Authorities suspect foul play and news about Cleo’s involvement goes viral. Who was Beck and what was the nature of her and Cleo’s relationship? Was Beck an infatuated follower who took things too far? If Cleo is innocent, why did she run? Was it an accident? Or was it murder?

As evidence of Cleo’s secret life surfaces, the world begins to see just how hard she strived to get to the top— and how fast and far the fall is from celebrity to infamy.

L. R. Dorn’s reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s novel, told in the form of a true crime docuseries a la Serial and The Jinx—with characters speaking through the “transcripts” of recorded interviews—The Anatomy of Desire exposes the ambition, sexual passion, and dark side of success that readers will find as achingly poignant as they did a century ago.

I downloaded this audiobook on a whim, even though I didn’t really know much about it, and haven’t ever heard of An American Tragedy. So I went into this with absolutely no preconceived notion of what to expect. 

The story unfolded like a cross between a true crime podcast and a court room drama, so it was fairly appealing. Rather than seeing the story from just one character’s POV, the story was told from multiple perspectives at once, preventing too much from being revealed at any one time. It made it feel more realistic, and actually felt a lot like a story that I could easily see playing out on the news, rather than in fiction.

When certain characters were introduced, specifically Cleo and Beck, I had formed opinions of them fairly quickly. But I was surprised to realize how quickly my views changed as more information was presented. It wasn’t as if there were a lot of plot twists, as much as there was just more information revealed. 

Part of what initially appealed to me about the story was the full cast narration. I have generally found that these type of audiobooks make it easier to differentiate between characters, although I didn’t really find that was necessarily the case here. Several of the male characters sounded similar enough that I couldn’t always figure out who was supposed to be speaking, and it would make it a little confusing at certain points in the story. 

It did force me to look at the dichotomy between the persona that we put forth on social media and who we actually are in real life. Whether you are a social media influencer or not, so many of us tend to fall into the trap of picking and choosing what we post to promote only certain things about ourselves, and hiding other parts that we may not like or feel are as acceptable. 

Overall, the story was interesting. I struggled to stop listening when it was time, and would start listening every single chance I get, even if it was only for a few minutes. The story itself wasn’t predictable, and I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be. This is one of those impulse reads that I’m so glad I picked up, and I hope you give it a chance too, especially if you like mysteries or crime podcasts. 

You can access this title from and help to support local, indie bookstores at the same time!

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