Writing for The New York Times, Conrad Knickerbocker gave praise to Capote's talent for detail throughout the novel and declared the book a "masterpiece" — an "agonizing, terrible, possessed, proof that the times, so surfeited with disasters, are still capable of tragedy".
In a controversial review of the novel published in 1966 for The New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann, criticising Capote's writing style throughout the novel, states that he "demonstrates on almost every page that he is the most outrageously overrated stylist of our time" and later asserts that "the depth in this book is no deeper than its mine-shaft of factual detail; its height is rarely higher than that of good journalism and often falls below it."
Tom Wolfe wrote in his essay "Pornoviolence": "The book is neither a who-done-it nor a will-they-be-caught, since the answers to both questions are known from the outset... Instead, the book's suspense is based largely on a totally new idea in detective stories: the promise of gory details, and the withholding of them until the end."
In The Independent's Book of a Lifetime series, reviewer Kate Colquhoun asserts that "the book – for which he made a reputed 8000 pages of research notes – is plotted and structured with taut writerly flair. Its characters pulse with recognisable life; its places are palpable. Careful prose binds the reader to his unfolding story. Put simply, the book was conceived of journalism and born of a novelist."