Review: Unnatural Causes – Dr Richard Shepherd

Unnatural Causes

Unnatural Causes

Dr Richard Shepherd

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781405923545

RRP $34.99

 

Description:

A gripping memoir by one of the UK’s most prominent and experienced pathologists. His work has turned cases on their heads and put murderers behind bars. But his obsession with trying to learn what the dead are telling us began in medical school during his first autopsy. Holding the heart of the patient in his hands, he thought of his late mother, who’d died young from coronary heart disease. He wanted to help the living by learning about death. And, in the case of his criminal work, he wanted to see justice.

 

Intelligent, insightful, chilling – sometimes bizarre – and always unputdownable.

 

Unnatural Causes is the true crime book of the year from an expert who’s opening his records and sharing his casebook for the first time.

 

 

My View:

For a pathologist this author makes a wonderful wordsmith!

 

This is an intriguing narrative, a creative memoir that discusses the changes in society and attitudes to policing, medicine and science in an easy to read format that is engaging and illuminating. The discussion around autopsies, mass shootings/acts of terror and suspicious deaths are handled sensitively and considerately, the writer’s humanness shines through these sections of the book.

 

The author is open, honest and empathetic.  This is a sensitively and intelligently written book that will appeal to lovers of memoir, history, true crime and social science.

 

 

 

Post Script: Look What You Made me Do – Fathers Who Kill- Megan Norris

One Australian woman is hospitalised every three hours and two more lose their lives each week as a result of family violence. But for some women there is a punishment more enduring than injury or their own death.

Megan Norris

Look What You Made Me Do  

Fathers Who Kill

Megan Norris

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760061838

 

Description:

One Australian woman is hospitalised every three hours and two more lose their lives each week as a result of family violence. But for some women there is a punishment more enduring than injury or their own death.

This book is a timely exploration into the evil done by vengeful fathers who kill their own flesh and blood in order to punish wives who have chosen to end abusive relationships.

 

Focussing on seven different but equally harrowing cases of ‘spousal revenge’, author Megan Norris draws on her own observations as a former court and crime reporter, examining the murders of thirteen innocent children who became collateral damage in callous crimes committed by angry dads whose real targets were the children’s mothers.

 

From the harrowing 1993 kidnap and murder of three-year-old Kelly East in WA, to the chilling murder of Darcey Freeman whose dad hurled her from Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge in 2009, these stories highlight the chilling connection between intimate partner abuse and retaliatory homicide. They show it’s not only mothers who are in danger when domestic violence turns deadly.

 

 

My View:

 

True crime novels are not what they used to be, and I mean that as a complement to contemporary true crime writers.

This book in particular surprised me with its well-researched, personal and sensitive account of the crimes committed against women, it could not have been easy sitting in the courtrooms, reading the court transcriptions or speaking with the women here. For the women – it must have been like dredging up hell all over again – yet their voices are so powerful and so necessary if we want to stamp out this type of violence and prevent another child’s senseless death.  I applaud the writer and the women who bravely retold their stories.

 

One Australian woman is hospitalised every three hours and two more lose their lives each week as a result of family violence. But for some women there is a punishment more enduring than injury or their own death.

This is a remarkable book; not always easy to read, written with disdain for the perpetrators whilst highlighting the amazing resilience that some women are able to find when the most horrendous punishment is metred out to them. The problem of male “entitlement” is very evident; women seen as possessions, play things, trophies, and props to paint a false picture to the outside world …these narratives paint an ugly and harrowing truth.

The dialogue between men and women needs to change.  Now.

This is a book that needs to be read by all politicians, police, all public servants, doctors, nurses… and the men and women on the street. We all need to be aware, recognise the signs (when there are any), talk more, support more and speak the truth, stop turning a blind eye, listen more and as a community – put more resources into creating safe places for women to turn to and enforce intimate partner AVO’s.  “An AVO is an Apprehended Violence Order. It is an order to protect victims of domestic violence when they are fearful of future violence or threats to their safety. They are sometimes called restraining orders or protection orders.” (ww.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/what-we-do/community-partnerships/…/what-is-an-avo)

 

I predict a Ned Kelly award – and another EVA (Eliminating Violence Against Women) award for Megan Norris in the near future.

Post Script: The Blood On My Hands – Shannon O’Leary

The Blood On My Hands

The Blood On My Hands

Shannon O’Leary

Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN: 9781519695871

 

Description:

Set in 1960s and ’70s Australia, “The Blood on My Hands” is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.

 

The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.

 

“The Blood on My Hands” is a heartbreaking-yet riveting-narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.

 

My View:

A particularly horrific and grim story of ongoing domestic violence and psychosis that is not addressed in the perpetrator’s lifetime – this is a uncomfortable book to read  –  imagine what it must have been like to endure? And endure Shannon O’Leary and her family did – the depravity here is unbelievable – if the author hadn’t qualified the read with “autobiography” you would think this was macabre crime fiction.

To enjoy or not to enjoy? No I can’t say I enjoyed this read – the wounds, physical and psychological were open, raw and bleed onto the pages – I could not enjoy. Compelling – yes. An incredible story of courage and survival – yes.  Can we learn from the mistakes made here? I think this should be read by all in the agencies working in the field of domestic violence and community health; more education and resources are needed in these areas.

 

Shannon O’Leary – you must be one amazingly strong woman.  Whenever I think life is tough for me, I will recall what you have endured.

 

 

Post Script: Eugenia A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage – Mark Tedeschi QC

Eugenia: A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage

Eugenia

Mark Tedeschi

Simon &Schuster Australia

A CBS Company

ISBN: 9781922052315

 

Description:

Eugenia Falleni was a woman, who in 1920 was charged with the murder of her wife.

She had lived in Australia for twenty-two years as a man and during that time married twice. Three years after the mysterious disappearance of Annie, her first wife, Eugenia was arrested and charged with her murder. This is the story of one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in legal history anywhere in the world. The book traces Eugenia’s history: from her early years in New Zealand, to her brutal treatment aboard a merchant ship and then her life in Sydney, living as Harry Crawford – exploring how Harry managed to convince two wives that he was a man, culminating with Annie’s’ death, the police investigation, Harry’s second marriage to Lizzie, and then arrest for Annie’s murder three years after she had disappeared.

This book is true crime, true grit and truly gripping. It Includes; a tragic main character who believed she was a man trapped in the body of a woman, sexual deception in the dark, an allegation of murder, an over exuberant police investigation, an erudite judge, a determined prosecutor, an overwhelmed defender, a Press gone feral, a public clamouring or blood – a mix that inevitably led to a miscarriage of justice.

My View:

An act of true crime that is as bizarre as any work of fiction I have read, this book is compelling yet moving reading. This is the first time I have felt sympathy for the accused, for the circumstances she lived in, for the social mores that restricted her life choices that ultimately lead to her prison sentence; a sentence that hindsight allows  us to see as unjust and undeserving and as Mark Tedeschi states, all the circumstances that conspired against her “inevitably led to a miscarriage of justice.”

This is a very well researched and presented case; Tedeschi writes with grace and without prejudice, stating facts, as Tedeschi reveals on page 313 when asked if he thinks was Eugenia guilty he responds, “My answer is always the same; that is the wrong question. The right question is: Was there sufficient evidence to justify her conviction for murder…If her trial was held today, I am quite convinced that she would either be acquitted outright or, at most, convicted of manslaughter.”

This case makes fascinating reading – a trial by media, a trial for the crime of being other. I would like to think that as a society we have made significant progress is how we accept otherness, but largely I am ashamed to say I think that we are all too quick to judge by appearances and today’s modern media and specifically social media, hold so much power in how we interpret the world around us. Power it doesn’t deserve.

 

 

Post Script: Murder in Mississippi – John Safran

Murder in Mississippi

The Trust Story of How I Met a White Supremacist, Befriended His Black Killer and Wrote this Book

John Safran

Penguin Books Australia

Hamish Hamilton

ISBN: 9781926428468

 

Description:

When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.

My View:

For a true crime novel Safran writes a great documentary. I love the humour in this read (intentional or otherwise)… Safrans’ style is rambling, conversational, personal and intimate – he is talking to you in this novel, sharing his thoughts, sharing his fears, sharing his concerns and his investigative techniques and his revelations. He is honest. This reads as part diary, part interview, part commentary, part investigation and I did really love his warped sense of humour. It was interesting, it was entertaining, it was visual and it was thought provoking. When is the doco coming out?