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Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century Hardcover – Illustrated, May 1, 2013
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“Graham psychoanalyzes Parker and Hulme from afar but does so tastefully and insightfully. Matricide is a rare crime. As a result, it has not been written about much in the popular literature, a gap Graham fills admirably. A worthy retrospective that feels chilling in the manner of novelist Perry.” (Kirkus Reviews)
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1620876302
- ISBN-13 : 978-1620876305
- Dimensions : 6 x 6.4 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Skyhorse; 1st edition (May 1, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,123,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Also, the author's post-trial analysis of Juliet's and Pauline's characters is astute and avoids sensationalism. He rightly takes the adult Juliet (who now calls herself Anne Perry) to task for her convenient self-forgiveness and revisionism in painting herself as an unwitting child who was coerced by fear and guilt to take part in the crime, but he does so evenhandedly. Perry's comment when asked if she ever thinks about the woman she killed may tell the true story of her degree of contrition: "No. She was somebody I barely knew." Less is known about the adult Pauline, but her marginalizing herself on the fringes of a society she cannot face seems to at least suggest remorse.
One more caveat: for a book named Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, a much clearer picture is painted of the teenage Pauline than her partner in crime, Juliet Hulme (Perry). I get it; Perry is now a fairly well-known mystery writer. A book called Pauline Parker and the Murder of the Century would have sold fewer copies. And Juliet's personal diary, a potentially valuable resource to the author, had been (wisely) destroyed by her family. To be fair, this wasn't the author's original title; the book was originally released under the more measured title, So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the Murder that Shocked the World, and recently repackaged by the publishers for maximum sales punch.
A good account of a very intriguing crime, despite it's problems, and a worthwhile read once you get past the slow parts. Three and a half stars, perhaps four stars for the latter half of the book.
Juliet Hulme was the daughter of a university rector. Pauline Parker was the daughter of a fishmonger. Both girls suffered ill health and separation from their families. When they met at school, they formed an obsessive friendship that alarmed their parents and was diagnosed by the mental health experts as lesbianism--- at that time a mental illness. But little was done about this obsession, and the girls continued to meet with one another.
When it came time for Juliet Hulme's family to leave New Zealand, parting of the two girls was inevitable. But the girls did not see it that way. The plan was that most of the Hulme family would return to England, while Juliet would be shipped off to a relative in South Africa. The girls wanted Pauline to accompany Juliet. The Hulme parents did not officially object, and so it was left to Honorah Parker, Pauline's mother, to be the bad guy.
Pauline was very angry over her mother's stance on separating her from her only friend. And so she and Juliet concocted a plan to kill Honorah Parker by bashing her with a half-brick in a stocking and then claiming the woman fell and hit her head on a rock. The story fell apart after the murder since the woman clearly had suffered many, many blows from the half-brick.
The case was a sensational one in New Zealand and also made the papers back in England. Mental health witnesses were put on for an insanity plea but it was not believed. The girls were found guilty and sent to separate prisons with an indefinite sentence. Both were released early and Juliet was out of New Zealand before anyone knew she was released. Her name was changed to Anne Perry--- the surname being that of her stepfather.
Both of the girls had ambitions to be writers, and Juliet, now Anne, never stopped trying. In 1979 her first Victorian mystery was published and she went on to some success. But the truth came out--- which actually made Anne Perry's books sell better. I suppose a murder mystery writer who has committed a murder is considered somewhat of an expert.
Peter Graham looks in to the claims that Anne Perry now makes about her involvement in the murder, in which she makes herself look like almost a bystander. Some of the claims she makes are shown to be false--- such as the one that the drugs she took to cure her tuberculosis were mind-altering ones which caused her participation in the murder. The drugs were in fact not what Anne Perry described and she was no longer taking them at the time in question.
The author also looks into the later history of Pauline Parker, who seems to have had remorse for the murder. She became a Catholic and tried to become a nun. She worked with special needs children for years. In retirement she lives as a recluse.
I would have liked the book better had the author consulted with some expert in psychology to help him make sense of the mental health records generated by the case, but perhaps he did not have access to such a person. I thought it was a good book which seemed to have a lot of facts to fall back on rather than being mostly opinion as some such true crime books are. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read true murder stories.
Top reviews from other countries
Peter Graham takes a forensic look at the circumstances that led up to the killing of Mrs Rieper, soon to be known as Honorah Parker, in the newspapers, because if the indignity of being the victim of matricide wasn’t enough, Bill, Pauline’s father had to disclose that the couple had never married despite having had four children together. The natural place to start is the friendship between the wealthy Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, especially as the rumours were that the two girls were in a lesbian relationship and the author takes us through a comprehensive look at the facts, mainly supplied by Pauline’s diary but supplemented by the stories the two girls wrote and a few comments from contemporaries. He doesn’t leave it there the circumstances of both families are examined with microscopic detail to look for clues on where the seeds were sown for such an unnatural crime. Indeed rates of matricide, a fairly rare crime in itself, but when split by gender exceptionally so. Indeed those who commit this particular crime tend to be adult women living with elderly mothers, not teenage girls.
The book is fascinating, it starts with the scene of the crime and then looks backwards into the family details before moving onto the questioning of the girls and their eventual trial. If anything a lot of the details about Henry’s work as a scientist seemed a little superfluous but if nothing else it gave context, and indeed contrast, between the lives the two girls lived. The author tries, and in my opinion fails, to come up with an underlying mental illness for either girl, but as in the examination of their family set-ups, he doesn’t ever impose his views, rather gives the facts and lets the reader come to their own conclusion.
The big difference in this account is that we know what happens after the trial, after the two girls were released mainly because one of them became a famous author, of crime fiction. Her identity was discovered when in 1994 Peter Jackson directed the film Heavenly Creatures about this crime, then thirty years after the event. Anne Perry was alive and well, living in Scotland having succeeded in becoming a successful author. It is hard to put out of your mind the stories to the two friends wrote together, heavily inspired by the films they watched and their fertile imaginations. Pauline Parker was also tracked down by keen journalists, she also no longer lived in New Zealand but had settled in England under a new name.
This was a fascinating read although it is often the truth that as much as we want to, we learn little from murderers through true crime. The two girls in this instance, hatched a plan without any idea of what killing someone really entailed and as a result were quickly caught. Their plans to go to America and meet the film stars and become writers, didn’t come true… but for one of them it almost did.
I chose to read this book when I learned that Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge was inspired by this crime which was front page news around the world at the time. I thought that I would follow up with a book by Anne Perry herself, but to be honest I don’t have the stomach for that at the moment, but I have bought a copy of Heavenly Creatures to watch.
Known as one of New Zealand’s worst killings, the Parker/Hulme case made headlines around the world and set off an interest in the murder that is as strong today as it was then. Thousands of articles were written, dozens of books, stage plays and even movies were made (including Peter Jackson’s award-winning ‘Heavenly Creatures’). What drove two schoolgirls to commit such a terrible crime? Were the pair simply insane, or was it due to the bizarre fantasy world they created in order to explore ideas about writing, movie stars and sex?
Peter Graham has fashioned a well-researched, eminently readable and totally engrossing book that takes us from the girls’ early lives to the murder and beyond, exploring the many theories put forward both at the time and since. Though the book still leaves questions unanswered, Graham is a master of his craft and lays out the evidence in a logical sequence that will thrill lovers of true crime everywhere.
But what of Anne Perry?
Though I had heard of her (and had also seen the movie), I hadn’t made the connection between the best-selling crime writer and the schoolgirl who used to be known as Juliet Hulme. This book shines an interesting light on Perry’s writing ability, as well as exploring her and Pauline’s lives since the murder.
A fascinating book that tells a horrifying story with panache and piercing insight. Read it now.
Juliet Hulme was attractive, intelligent and confident. The daughter of Dr Henry Hulme, Rector of Canterbury University College, and Hilda Hulme; described as both an asset to her husband’s career and also as cold and distant. Juliet’s childhood was certainly disrupted by war and separation from her mother due to illness. She resented her younger brother and was difficult and troublesome, while her mother’s attention was distracted when she embarked on an affair with a man named Bill Perry. Everyone seemed surprised when Juliet befriended Pauline Parker at school. Juliet came from a far more wealthy and successful family and, and as well as class differences, Pauline was much less pretty – described as stocky, sarcastic and even ‘creepy.’ Still, it was a friendship which blossomed despite, or perhaps because of, parental worries about the closeness of the girls on both sides. It would also result in tragedy, when the pair planned and carried out a terrible crime, for which they seemed to feel no guilt or remorse at the time.
The author asks why the girls carried out the crime, discusses what happened and examines the closeness of the girls. This is a disturbing read and the girls seemed to live very much a fantasy life and were both difficult and out of control. Although the author does present all the relevant information – from family background, examination of what happened, the trial and aftermath, I did have some issues with the text. I felt the book could have benefited from editing; oddly really, as this is another edition of a previously published book (although this is the first time I have read it, so I do not know how, or if, it has been improved). I felt there were too many digressions - for example, film plots recounted in detail, which may have inspired the girls fantasies. Also, the text jumps about sometimes. There is, near the beginning of the book, for example, mention of a sister of Pauline’s – Rosemary – who does not live with the family. Although you grasp there is a reason why that is so, the family history is not explained until later. So, the author assumes you have knowledge about certain characters, which is not readily apparent, as he jumps from the crime itself and then goes back to the background of the girls. However, overall, it is a good retelling of what happened, with lots of detail and this follows events to the girls life in later years and the public discovery of author Anne Perry’s past.
What happened in 1954 was a tragedy, which affected many lives and it is impossible to make light of the repercussions. Not only did Honorah Parker lose her life, but her husband lost his wife and his daughters their mother. The families of both girls were damaged by what happened and there was immense press scrutiny. However, the author is always fair to all the people involved; including Hilda Hulme, who was judged very harshly at the time. This really is a very interesting book, made more so if you enjoy the books of Anne Perry. Still, it works well as a true crime book in its own right and hardly needs the notoriety of a famous author, as what happened is still shocking, so many years later.
The detail given about the murder, the people involved and the historical background is all excellent. Highly recommended, even with the appalling title.
it is a horrendous and highly unusual true story and we recommend it to all those who appreciate the true crime genre
especially interesting is the Epilogue section and the analysis of the case psychologically