Guest Review: Stalking Claremont – Bret Christian

Stalking Claremont
Inside the Hunt for a Serial Killer  
Bret Christian
ABC Books
Harper Collins Publishers Australia

Rachel’s Review:

An incredibly gripping, insightful and compelling look behind the scenes of Australia’s longest-running homicide investigation.

I was absolutely hooked by this fascinating exploration of the horrific crimes and subsequent decades of investigations to catch the murderer that terrorised Claremont.

This meticulous probe into the high-stakes police work, bumbling mistakes, and relentless focus on innocent suspects was riveting. With broad strokes reporter Bret Christian paints a vivid picture of Claremont in the late 1990s, a world that in many ways feels so familiar and yet, in others, so far removed from my own experiences as a young woman in Perth just a decade later – testament to how much we were changed as a town when three women’s lives were cut short. Piecing together what we remember from the last 20 plus years of media coverage with all the things the public never knew, including how the case was eventually cracked, this is a considered, detailed and well-researched ode to three Perth women whose names will never be forgotten – Sarah Spiers, Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon.

Review: Barrenjoey Road – Neil Mercer& Ruby Jones

Barrenjoey Road

Neil Mercer & Ruby Jones

ABC Books

ISBN: 9780733340468

 

Description:

A gripping expose of a notorious cold case 1978. An idyllic beachside community. A series of abductions and rapes. So what happened to Trudie Adams?

 

The disappearance of 18-year-old Trudie Adams while hitchhiking home on Sydney’s northern beaches in 1978 left her family and community devastated. When police began to investigate, the dark underbelly of the so-called ‘insular peninsula’ was exposed, where surfers ran drugs home from Bali, teenagers hitchhiked everywhere due to the lack of public transport, gangs of men prowled the beaches and the roads, and predators abducted and raped countless young women, crimes rarely reported or investigated.

 

Inspired by the award-winning #1 podcast and ABC TV series and containing new revelations never previously revealed, Barrenjoey Road is the gripping expose of why the case was never solved. It takes us all the way to the top, from a criminal perpetrator with a lifelong record and links to organised crime who was never formally accused, to police corruption at the highest level.

 

 

My View:

Poignant and equally baffling, this is a true crime narrative that is once again too close to home for comfort. You cannot ignore the depiction of innocence tainted with the intrusion of men’s unwanted desires/impulses on the lives of so many young women. And in this read it is not just the perpetrators who are misogynistic and vile, many of the public officers are the same. I do hope life has changed, that standards have been raised, that women’s’ concerns are now listened to and treated with respect. I am hoping for too much? I still hope. I do feel angry.

 

A powerful read made even more so with the inclusion of the carefree photos of the main focus of this story – Trudie Adams. Moving and sad. I wish there were answers. Hopefully the podcast, TV series and the publication of this book will tempt someone to come forward, will niggle at someone’s almost forgotten memories. Rest in peace Trudie.

#metoo

 

 

 

 

Review: Inside the hunt for a serial killer: Stalking Claremont – Bret Christian.

Stalking Claremont

Inside the Hunt for a Serial Killer  

Bret Christian

ABC Books

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

ISBN 978073338731

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

The gripping true story of the notorious Claremont serial murders and the nation’s longest and most expensive investigation to catch the killer

 

In the space of just over a year in 1996-7, three young women disappeared from Claremont, an upmarket suburb in central Perth. When two of the young women were found murdered, Australia’s longest and most expensive investigation was established. More than twenty years later, an unlikely suspect was arrested based on forensic evidence that also linked the murders to two previous vicious rapes. Stalking Claremont, by local newsman Bret Christian, is a riveting story of young lives cut short, a city in panic, an investigation riddled with error, and a surprising twist that absolutely no one saw coming.

 

Author Bret Christian adds:

“It is hard to dream up a worse way to write the definitive book on the Claremont serial killings. It was always an unfolding story. At our local newspaper we had been following and reporting on the Claremont serial killer cases since 1995. After an arrest was made I gave many interviews, one to news.com.au. Almost instantly I received a call from ABC Books commissioning a book.  I wrote it in three months, realising the urgency – Edwards might plead guilty or, being a very high-profile prisoner, something might happen to him in jail.

Publication had to wait three years for a trial to begin,  then another 10 months for the completion of the  court case. In the meantime, with new interviews and court submissions, much new information had to be woven into the original manuscript. Avoiding making the additions look stuck-on, resembling a coronavirus molecule, meant many headaches.”

Stalking Claremont presents as a detailed murder-mystery thriller, but it was written to provide the answers – to learn from the past in order to better face he future.  What went wrong in the hunt for the Claremont serial killer? What was really behind the focus on the wrong people? What finally went right? Can these lessons be universally applied to other unsolved crime mysteries?

 

 

My View:

 I predict a Walkley!

 

This is a book of powerful emotions. At first my interest was piqued as the crimes and circumstances happened in my home state, in social situations I was familiar with/was involved with …the narrative, like the crimes committed felt very personal.  As I started reading, I was surprised at how quickly I was transported back to that era and how suddenly I got the “chills” and locked my open sliding door opposite my seat on the lounge where I sat reading. I felt discomfort, no I felt fear.

 

This uncomfortable feeling, this apprehension did not leave but was overtaken by anger when I continued to read and discover the many civil liberties that were trashed, individual’s health and lifestyles destroyed, for no concrete reasons, during this lengthy and mostly narrow sighted investigation.  How did/could things go so wrong for so long? There are many questions that needed asking, an enquiry that needs to be made (if it’s not happened already/or is happening), reassurances that this sort of flawed investigating never happens again.

 

I continued reading, again aghast at why useful information was not made public, why first-hand useful information was ignored…then I read details of the murders that had not been released to the public…oh dear! These poor girls.  Sorrow, grief…so many more emotions.

 

This is a book that I highly recommend you read; this excellently researched and written book is astonishing in the facts it illuminates, the wrongs it sets right by clearly announcing to the general public that the publicly persecuted persons of interest were not at all involved with the crimes, and had no physical evidence linking them to the crimes, ever, etc (where is the public apologies? Where is the compensation, though how you can compensate for this level of distress and intrusion caused to blameless individuals I do not know)?  I am outraged as you may have gathered. And I hope that somehow, someone reading this book will recall a vital piece of information that will bring Sarah Spiers home.  I hope Bradley Robert Edwards is never released from prison.

 

What a read! I don’t think a book has ever incensed me like this.

 

I predict awards for Bret Christian. Thank you for shining the light on this controversial investigation.

Review: The Schoolgirl Strangler – Katherine Kovacic

The Schoolgirl Strangler

Katherine Kovac

Echo

ISBN: 9781760686635

RRP $32.99

 

Description:
The shocking true story of a serial killer in 1930s Melbourne.

 

November, 1930. One sunny Saturday afternoon, 12-year-old Mena Griffiths was playing in the park when she was lured away by an unknown man. Hours later, her strangled body was found, mouth gagged and hands crossed over her chest, in an abandoned house. Only months later, another girl was murdered; the similarities between the cases undeniable. Crime in Melbourne had taken a shocking new turn: this was the work of a serial killer, a homicidal maniac.

 

Despite their best efforts, police had no experience dealing with this kind of criminal. What followed was years of bungled investigations, falsely accused men – and the tragic deaths of two more girls – before the murderer was finally caught and brought to justice.

 

With all the pace of a thriller, Katherine Kovacic recounts this extraordinary, chilling true story – of failed police enquiries, a killer with a Jekyll and Hyde personality, and the families shattered when four innocent lives were cruelly taken.

 

My View:

Katherine Kovacic is a talented writer, who, with the publishing of this work of non-fiction, has demonstrated her great skills and depth of writing and research. I enjoyed every aspect of this read- the cover art – which is perfect for the era of the crimes (in fact I will share a personal image with you that was used in a local “a stranger danger awareness” shoot back in the 1960’s.)

I love the chapters with the face/jigsaw puzzle slowly revealing the face of the accused.

The research led narrative is presented in easily digested vocabulary, and without personal intervention, I like this tyle op presentation for true crime writing.   I absolutely abhor true crime where the writer thinks that their opinions are valuable in the story, in my opinion, they are not, it should be the reader who decides what they take/believe/ understand from the facts presented.

 

This is another great read from the talented Katherine Kovacic.

Best Reads of 2019 – Non Fiction

Most of the books in this category will shock your with their honesty, their rawness, their personal story of struggles and sometimes, their successes. I hope you find something here that will stimulate your mind and tug at your heart.

 

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe

Adélaïde Bon

Maclehose Press

Hachette Australia

 

Imperfect

Lee Kofman

Affirm Press

ISBN: 9781925584813

 

Bowraville

Dan Box

Penguin Random House Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780143784395

 

 

The Hormone Diaries

The Bloody Truth About Our Periods

Hannah Witton

Wren & Rook

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781526361462

Review: Bowraville – Dan Box

Bowraville

Dan Box

Penguin Random House Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780143784395

 

Description:

A true crime story cannot often be believed, at least at the beginning. In Bowraville, all three of the victims were Aboriginal. All three were killed within five months, between 1990 and 1991. The same white man was linked to each, but nobody was convicted.

More than two decades later, homicide detective Gary Jubelin contacted Dan Box, asking him to pursue this serial killing. At that time, few others in the justice system seemed to know – or care – about the murders in Bowraville. Dan spoke to the families of the victims, Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, as well as the lawyers, police officers and even the suspect involved in what had happened. His investigation, as well as the families’ own determined campaigning, forced the authorities to reconsider the killings. This account asks painful questions about what ‘justice’ means and how it is delivered, as well as describing Dan’s own shifting, uncomfortable realisation that he was a reporter who crossed the line.

 

Praise for the Bowraville podcast:

 

‘It is a gripping true crime tale and an essay on racism; a challenge to the lies Australia tells itself about its treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people told through the voices of three Aboriginal families who have been indisputably let down … The podcast has galvanised the public in a way that two decades of print and television reporting on the Bowraville murders have not.’ The Guardian

 

‘A masterful example of crime reporting which forensically details the worst of human nature, inexplicably compounded by the gross negligence of the only people who could provide justice. It’s stirred thousands, including the prime suspect, to re-engage with the case after trusting the journalist to take them to dark places.’ Walkley judges’ comments

 

‘Outstanding.’ Leigh Sales

 

‘Moving, brilliant.’ Annabel Crabb

 

‘If you haven’t listened to Bowraville by Dan Box, then you should.’ David Campbell

 

 

My View:

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments that the Walkey judges made about the reporting of the Bowraville murders.  What more could I add?

 

That I was/am haunted by the stories here – the institutionalised and individual racism like none I have come across in Australia before now, my despair at the cycle of violence and alcoholism that has been normalised in some of the communities spoken of here and I feel the frustration of all those involved in trying to find justice for the two young people and the child victim in Bowraville and I thank Barry Toohey (p.214) for his outstanding explanation of “Chronic collective grief” that makes sense of so much of the pain evidenced in this read.

 

This is an outstanding read. All Australians would benefit from reading this book.

 

 

 

 

Review: Unsolved Australia Lost Boys Gone Girls – Justine Ford

Unsolved Australia: Lost Boys, Gone Girls

 Justine Ford

Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760556747

 

Description:

Can you catch a killer or find a missing person?

 

Australia is ‘the lucky country’. But not for everyone. Unsolved Australia: Lost Boys, Gone Girls tells thirteen stories of people whose luck ran out in the most mysterious of circumstances.

 

It’s a journalistic deep-dive into Australia’s dark heart by one of Australia’s premier true crime writers, Justine Ford, the acclaimed bestselling author of Unsolved Australia and The Good Cop.

 

Why are four people missing from a Western Australian doomsday cult? Who abducted and murdered beauty queen Bronwynne Richardson on pageant night? And why is a cooked chook important evidence in the outback disappearance of Paddy Moriarty?

 

Key players are interviewed, evidence laid out and suspects assessed. Never-before-published information is revealed. Can you help crack the case and solve these mysteries?

 

Hold tight as Unsolved Australia: Lost Boys, Gone Girls takes you on a chilling yet inspiring true crime rollercoaster ride where the final destination is hope.

 

My View:

I applaud the fact that Justine Ford has illuminated cases that have baffled both those left behind and the police tasked with solving these mysteries. Someone, somewhere must know something that will help solve these cases and every time someone reads about one of the mysteries here, speaks to their neighbour or work colleague or the person sitting on the train next to them about this book that they are reading, more opportunities are created to tug at peoples memories or to encourage someone to come forward with that piece of information that will make a difference to the lives of so many.  Has anyone come forward with useful information?  Have the rewards tempted anyone to speak out? I hope so.

 

I found the additional information/profiles/interviews with the behind the scenes individuals – the investigator, the criminal psychologist, the forensic anthropologist /criminologist/reporter, the investigative reporter, the investigative journalist, the former police detective ( I hope I have not missed any one out)  that interspaces the mysteries lifts and informs this collection of stories; simply fascinating. I could read more of this sort of interview.

 

There is so much sadness within these pages but there is optimism that reading this will make a difference to someone’s memory or conscience.  I do hope so.

 

 

 

Review: The Suicide Bride – Tanya Bretherton

The Suicide Bride

Tanya Bretherton

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733640988

 

Description:

Whenever society produces a depraved criminal, we wonder: is it nature or is it nurture?

 

When the charlatan Alicks Sly murdered his wife, Ellie, and killed himself with a cut-throat razor in a house in Sydney’s Newtown in early 1904, he set off a chain of events that could answer that question. He also left behind mysteries that might never be solved. Sociologist Dr Tanya Bretherton traces the brutal story of Ellie, one of many suicide brides in turn-of-the-century Sydney; of her husband, Alicks, and his family; and their three orphaned sons, adrift in the world.

 

From the author of the acclaimed THE SUITCASE BABY – shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award, Danger Prize and Waverley Library ‘Nib’ Award – comes another riveting true-crime case from Australia’s dark past. THE SUICIDE BRIDE is a masterful exploration of criminality, insanity, violence and bloody family ties in bleak, post-Victorian Sydney.

 

My View:

It was fascinating to read of such macabre events in an area of Sydney that I have visited. The book creates a visual landscape that is accessible and real. In this deeply researched book we are time travellers transported to Sydney, Newtown early 1900’s. And what a hard life it is – especially for women and children. Domestic violence is obvious but accepted as the norm – change is taking a long, long time.  Violence – nature versus nurture, the question is posed and left for the reader to ponder.

 

Tanya Bretherton explores an intriguing case of one of these horrendous act of violence – of a particular “Suicide Bride”, a term common for the crime of committing murder of spouse by the husband who then commits suicide.  In this case we view the bodies (wife and husband) in situ, we check pockets for notes, count coins, measure the wounds and try and avoid the deluge of blood. How could the wife not show any signs of defence wounds?  Read on carefully and wonder at the possible explanation given (no spoilers) I would like to have seen this solution discussed in more depth but how this could be explored so long after the event I cannot conceive.

 

A well-researched event that provides a great insight into Sydney in the 1900’s and possibly provides a great premise for a work of crime fiction for writers.

Review: The Little Girl on the Ice Floe: Adélaïde Bon

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe

Adélaïde Bon

Maclehose Press

Hachette Australia

RRP $35

 

Description:

“Life itself is in these pages: in this candid, poetic style there is storytelling of real quality” – LEILA SLIMANI, author of Lullaby

 

A powerful and personal account of the devastating consequences of childhood rape: a valuable voice for the #MeToo conversation.

 

Adélaïde Bon grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris, a privileged child with a loving family, lots of friends and seemingly limitless opportunity lying ahead of her. But one sunny afternoon, when she was nine years old, a strange man followed her home and raped her in the stairwell of her building. She told her parents, they took her to the police, the fact of the crime was registered … and then a veil was quietly drawn over that part of her childhood, and life was supposed to go on.

 

Except, of course, it didn’t.

 

Throughout her adolescence and young adulthood, Adélaïde struggles with the aftermath of the horror of that afternoon in 1990. The lingering trauma pervades all aspects of her life: family education, friendships, relationships, even her ability to eat normally. And then one day, many years later, when she is married and has a small son, she receives a call from the police saying that they think they have finally caught the man who raped her, a man who has hidden in plain sight for decades, with many other victims ready to testify against him. The subsequent court case reveals Giovanni Costa, the stuff of nightmares and bogeymen, finally vanquished by the weight of dozens and dozens of emotional and horrifying testimonies from all the women whose lives and childhoods he stole.

 

My View:

I am ready to call this The Best Memoir of 2019!

 

This is an amazing story – Adélaïde Bon’s childhood was stolen from her by a calculating and despicable man, the dark cloud of his actions remained with her for many years, unconsciously influencing her every decision and mood. Adélaïde is a brave and resourceful young woman who has used her personal story to further the #MeToo discussion.

 

Let me share a scene that I found profound. This is a scene from one of Adélaïde’s discussion with her psychiatrist (p179-180):

Psychiatrist: “Her father may have been violent. Your assailant had carefully chosen that girl. It’s quicker, less dangerous and even less tiring to assault someone who has already experienced violence.   A victim who hasn’t had any therapy disassociates herself almost immediately, assailants know how to identify them, know they won’t put up a fight, and that they probably won’t be able to say anything afterwards.   The fact that you were doing fine, that you lived in a close knit, loving family, where there was no domestic violence or corporal punishment, meant that he had to make more of an effort to make you disassociate. That’s certainly why he went so far with you. To guarantee his impunity. “

 

Adélaïde: “So afterwards, I was easier prey than the others? Is that why I attract all the perverts for miles around?”

 

Psychiatrist: “Yes. Unfortunately, the main risk factor in being the victim of violence is to have already experienced it. But you are recovering.”

 

This explains so much of life.

 

Unbelievably brave, I do not know where Adélaïde found the strength to allow love into her life and to recover from the trauma she suffered and then to write her incredibly haunting journey into the book that is “The Little Girl on the Ice Flow”.  This is a powerful and moving read, written by an incredibly talented and strong woman. I salute you Adélaïde Bon.

 

PS the translation is pitch perfect.

That’s a Wrap – My Last Review of 2018: Evil Has A Name

Evil Has A Name

Evil Has a Name

The Untold Story of the Golden State Killer Investigation

Paul Holes, Jim Clemente, Peter McDonnell

Audible

ASIN: B07H7RYQ5P

 

Description:

The Golden State Killer. The East Area Rapist. The Original Night Stalker. The Visalia Ransacker.

 

The monster who preyed on Californians from 1976 to 1986 was known by many aliases. And while numerous police sketches tried to capture his often-masked visage, the Golden State Killer spent more than 40 years not only faceless, but nameless.

 

For his victims, for their families and for the investigators tasked with finding him, the senselessness and brutality of the Golden State Killer’s acts were matched only by the powerlessness they felt at failing to uncover his identity. To be sure, the chances of obtaining closure—or any form of justice—after so many years were slim to none, at best.

 

Then, on April 24, 2018, authorities arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo at his home in Citrus Heights, Calif., based on DNA evidence linked to the crimes. After a decades-long hunt, a suspect was behind bars. Could it be that evil finally had a name?

 

Delivering all-new details about the investigation and a stunning final act to the events of Michelle McNamara’s haunting bestseller, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, this is the true story of how the suspected Golden State Killer was captured, as told, first-hand, by those closest to the case:

 

Paul Holes—the forensic criminologist and retired Costa County detective who spent 20 years trying to crack the Golden State Killer case, and finally did.

 

Jim Clemente (Host)—a retired FBI profiler and former New York City prosecutor who has investigated some of the highest profile criminal cases in U.S. history, including the Unabomber.

 

**Please note: This work contains descriptions of violent crime and sexual assault and may not be suitable for all listeners. **

 

My View:

Listening to this audio book was like watching a well-made documentary. The cast is outstanding – investigators, police, criminologists, a genealogist, a journalist, a profiler and the poignant voices of some of the victims and family of the victims. The narration was perfectly delivered.

 

This is a narrative that will remind you that crime, violent crimes in particular, have a heavy impact not only on the victims but on the friends, family, the first responders, the investigators and the community the victim lives in. So many carry the pain, the hurt, the fear. So many repercussions.

 

Despite numerous warnings regarding the explicit nature of some of the content I was not offended or horrified by the said content; it was not gratuitously presented, it was not sensationalised, it was honest. It was, at times, difficult to listen to the pain the survivors and their families carry with them, but their voices were integral to the completeness of the story. The only person we did not hear from, and of that I am relived, is the voice of the perpetrator. There is no justification for his actions. I do not need to understand his motivations. I am glad he has finally be called to account for his actions.

 

This is a remarkable true story. I applauded at the ending.