Murder no mystery, but still good read
Glen Young's book review (June 27, 2013)
Turning a long solved murder into a riveting read is tough. For the most part, Graham pulls it off here.
Parker, disappointed that her mother did not see her emerging genius, and whittled by childhood disease and economic stress, or so some claim, hatched a plan to launch her plan to be famous. That she enlisted Hulme was easily detectable.
Parker's plan did not include her mother. Pauline's diary entries explained as much. "Her mother had it coming," Graham explains, attempting to interpret Pauline's penned confessions. "Her nagging, her stupidity, her small-mindedness. Pauline would never forget the unhappiness of her childhood," and Honorah Parker was the source.
Blame, however, turns out large enough to go around. Graham reports, "From the start of the girls' friendship Juliet had been the source of almost all their peculiar ideas and Pauline her handmaiden." By the time they bludgeoned Pauline's mother on a remote trail in a nearby park, however, "Juliet had come to need Pauline every bit as much as Pauline needed her."
Accusations of a lesbian affair, combined with the sordid details of Juliet's mother's promiscuity, flamed the public's interest in the ordeal.
Drawing parallels to the better known Leopold and Loeb murder case in Chicago, Graham ferrets out rumors and science to unveil conclusions not before offered. To his credit, he does not overstep his expertise, but instead posits that the motivations behind the murder are more complicated than others have suggested.
Details about Honorah Parker's relationship with Pauline's father Bert, and those of Juliet's famous father and scandalous mother, provide a sordid context to view the case. Indeed, in New Zealand, the story reverberates yet. In 1994 film director Peter Jackson launched his international career with "Heavenly Creatures," a feature length look at the girls' relationship and the murder.
Stocked with memorable characters, including a hanging judge, a manic-depressive prosecutor, and Hulme's mother's hapless paramour, the story unfolds in tabloid-like detail.
Juliet, known now as Anne Perry, launched a solid literary career in 1979, largely trading, Graham suggests, on first-hard experience with her characters' understanding of murder and mayhem. Parker, now known as Hillary Nathan, has instead remained as anonymous as possible. This divide is central to the story.
And though the story at the center might not be "The Murder of the Century," Graham's reporting is thorough and substantive, so this is a compelling read, melding fact and fiction in a notable way.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Glen Young teaches English at Petoskey High School. His column, Literate Matters, appears the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Young can be reached at P.O. Box 174, Petoskey, Mich. 49770.