Author: Peter Graham
Summary: On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme—better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry—and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline’s mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline’s mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora’s determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson’s Academy Award–nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.
A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls’ relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time.
When I was in high school, for some reason I became obsessed with true crime books. I read A LOT of them. So I was excited to have the opportunity to review Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century. I have very mixed feelings about it.
On one hand, the murder itself is interesting. As the author points out, a murder like this (with two young perpetrators) is rare, made even more unique by the fact that they were girls. On the other hand, I found myself totally bored. I don’t know if it’s because it just seems so extraordinary – that these two girls created this crazy alternative universe, considered themselves evil, and went on to act on that “evil” – or because the author didn’t do a very good job setting it up, but I just felt like it was unbelievable. Which is weird, because the whole thing actually happened and there is a lot of documentation about the events.
There was a lot of extraneous information and I felt like it totally dragged. I was reading on my Kindle and remember at one point looking at the bottom of my screen and seeing that I was only halfway through and couldn’t believe there was any more to the story. In fact, if I’m being totally honest, I only made it through 75%. I feel like the author gave away his hand by describing almost all of the significant events right at the beginning. It would have held my attention much longer if I didn’t already know the ending. I will probably go back and finish it because I do think it’s interesting that the girls were eventually released, and one of them went on to become a bestselling novelist and I’d like to learn more about their lives after prison. But for now, some other books caught my attention and I just couldn’t talk myself into finishing this one.
Read Instead: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Helter Skelter: The True Story Of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule.
I enjoy reading true crime stories so I was excited to have the opportunity to read Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century. A murder with two young women as the perpetrators is rare and I expected to read something fascinating. Unfortunately, as fascinating as perhaps the real story was, the book itself was truly boring. There was an extreme volume of information that, while the author may have deemed important to the story, made the book drag on. It was difficult to read and maintain any level of interest in the actual story. Additionally, the story didn’t follow any logical sequence and instead jumped around which made it difficult to be come invested in the plot.
I’d like to say I finished the book; however, I eventually put it down. It was a difficult read and I just couldn’t force myself to continue.
When you’re told that you’re going to be reading a true crime book, there’s a certain level of expectation. There should be a fascinating, harrowing, disturbing story; vibrant characters that you love and hate at the time; revulsion and awe occurring simultaneously. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century. This was another case of a great story being ruined by poor writing. There was so much detail that I didn’t care about that slowed the story down and left me disinterested. It just dragged on and on and on that I finally started to skim to try and find something that would interest me. Each character seemed to be called ten different names that were used interchangeably and I frequently had to flip back to make sure I hadn’t missed the introduction of a new character. While the murder was gruesome and it was difficult to believe that two young girls were the perpetrators, I wasn’t moved because I found myself indifferent towards all of the characters.
I did get a little bit more interested in the second part that was dedicated to the trial, mainly because there was more discussion about their mental state and I had spent the entire first half thinking about how these families would have benefited from massive amounts of family counseling. However, the second section also just seemed to drag on with a lot of extra detail that wasn’t interesting. I did really enjoy the comparison to Leopold and Loeb, the Chicago pair of murders who killed a young boy just to prove that they could that came towards the end as part of the conclusion and the debate about the extent of evilness in the girls. It’s hard to compare two teenaged girls to people like Jeffrey Dahmer or Karla Homolka but taking into consideration the brutality of their crime and their lack of atonement or repentance, Juliet and Pauline probably do deserve that description, no matter how awkwardly described in the narrative.
The ending was disappointing as well- for as much as the beginning dragged on, the end seemed to jump from a chapter in prison to a chapter about release and post-prison life. it was jarring and I felt that for all the detail at the beginning, this was lacking important information and clarity.
Overall, the story was disjointed and uneven. I think it was meant to read almost like a novel but it fell short of its intention. It also could have benefited by a better, more coherent outline.