- Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia (2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330421786
- ISBN-13: 978-0330421782
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,537,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Joe Cinque's Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law Paperback – 2006
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In October 1997 a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests-most of them university students-had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of rohypnol and heroin. His girlfriend and her best friend were charged with murder. Helen Garner followed the trials in the ACT Supreme Court. Compassionate but unflinching, this is a book about how and why Joe Cinque died. It probes the gap between ethics and the law; examines the helplessness of the courts in the face of what we think of as 'evil'; and explores conscience, culpability, and the battered ideal of duty of care. It is a masterwork from one of Australia's greatest writers. Winner of New Kelly Award for Best True Crime 2005 Winner of ABA Book of the Year 2004
Top Customer Reviews
It was bizarre because the woman was an intelligent, well-brought-up university student; her boyfriend had done nothing wrong; although she told her friends what she planned (and even got them to assist), they did nothing effective to stop her.
I've described this as "essential reading" because it shows just how weird apparently sane and normal people can get; and how complacent (and complicit) others can be about their friends' obsessions.
It's also an examination of the Australian legal system which leaves you shaking your head (the killer was found guilty of manslaughter and released after just a few years in prison).
No-one can make sense of the death of Joe Cinque. It is now almost ten years since he was killed. The woman responsible was found guilty of manslaughter (on the basis of 'diminished responsibility') and served four years of a ten year sentence.
In the meantime, Joe's parents are left grieving the loss of their son. The Cinques were interviewed recently, and it is clear that their grief is as raw today as it was then. For them, there is no finite sentence to serve. 'Diminished responsibility' or not, Anu Singh has robbed a family of a much loved son.
In recounting the facts, Helen Garner restores some dignity to Joe Cinque. We get a sense of the young man he was and a hint of the man he might have become. What we don't get is a sense of why Anu Singh killed him. I suspect that is one mystery that non-one, and certainly not Singh herself can ever explain.
This is a well-written, albeit very uncomfortable, book.
Anu Singh, the girlfriend, was finally convicted of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.
The description of Joe Cinque's death, and the long, long, preamble to it is very disturbing. It's disturbing because Singh shared her plans with numerous friends, none of whom did anything to deter her from her plans (which originally included her own suicide as the finale). In fact they assisted: with research on suicide methods, with demonstrations of injecting technique, with buying the necessary drugs. These are not sad cases on the margins of society; they're all students with plenty of financial and emotional support as well as access to professional advice.
I'd urge everyone to read this book. It won't be pleasant, but it will show you something and make you think about issues you didn't even think needed consideratino.
But Garner provides us with so much more. The book is a retelling of the events punctuated with the author’s own reflections as she questions the motives of the main players and struggles with the law’s inherent failures.
She (and we) are incredulous that the law offers no protection and leaves the victim’s family reeling in their grief. To have their son killed by someone with “diminished responsibility” is difficult enough for them to grasp but to know there were so many “spectators” who aided and abetted and did nothing to stop the farcical madness is just too much. The victim’s family listen and endure as Counsel manoeuvre and “normalise” such events; “the spin Mr Lasry [defence Counsel] put on the events of Joe Cinque’s last days was breathtaking in its gall.”
Garner provides us with analysis and questions from all angles: does a judge suffer “from the icy chill, the moral failure of the law”? And what of grief and anguish – where does it go when “formal” retribution fails? And would vengeance and anguish go quietly even if a “just” penalty was imposed? And is it simply a person’s right to choose suicide unquestioned? Her style is thought provoking and has us constantly searching our own beliefs and values.
However the narration does seem to lack a little sequence and coherence - Garner admits she struggled to make sense of it all particularly when reading the joint trial court documents.
It is also grating that Garner would foist herself into the story, wanting to be judged like Singh. Admittedly she wrote the book when she was at a low point and suffering herself but it does seem to seriously clang with the gravity of Joe’s death.
Overall a thought provoking and often disturbing read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written. However due to being a mother of 4 sons I found it hard to read due to the sad story & outcome.Published 7 days ago by Ann Prior
A moving and absolutely terrifying true story. Ms Garner writes skilfully and beautifully.Published 1 month ago by Timothy J Hurst
Good but got a little lost by being drawn out. Very good insight into the courts processPublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book is so much more than a "true crime" story. Helen Garner offers an insight into the life of Joe Cinque's family and friends dealing with the aftermath of his... Read morePublished 3 months ago by dogmouse
This book by Helen Garner is her very best. This book has never left me. It is a true story yet implausible. This could have happened to your son. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
I didn't really understand the concept of the book, or maybe I misread the summary. I thought it would be more investigative and about the trial but really it was about the... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Laura511
Thank you Helen, a book that had to be written. What a tragedy. I enjoyed the no noncence writing style and that the author put herself in the picture. Hard to put down.Published 13 months ago by Bronwyn Vincent
Helen Garner is like Janet Malcolm ("In the Freud Archives" a hatchet deconstruction of Jeffrey Masson). Intelligent, with an engaging writing style. Read morePublished 15 months ago by "Belgo Geordie"