Sunday, August 21, 2016

Murder, She Wrote (about).....

Robert Farquharson 

Just finished This House of Grief:  The Story of a Murder Trial by Helen Garner. The photo above is of the accused murderer as published in The Guardian newspaper.

I really enjoy non-fictional (and fictional) accounts of jury trials, especially of those which are of somewhat gruesome events; this one is of a man accused of driving off into a small lake near a dam somewhere not too far from Melbourne, Australia.  The car sank and he escaped--but his three children with him drowned and he was put on trial for murder, accused of deliberately creating an accident because he wanted to kill his children.  This book was written by Helen Garner as sort of a personal reflection on her experiences as a member of the court audience.  And this is the problem I had with it.  First of all, she often drops into some personal feelings which I think takes away from the trial itself.  Secondly, I didn't feel that there was enough given to the actual questioning and answering of the lawyers and the witnesses.  She often summarised the give and take in her own words and I believe this distracted from the hard-nose questioning. She could have accessed the transcripts to provide more exact quotations.
This book had so much potential of being a great, compelling thriller but for the reasons listed above and because Garner often slipped into cliche after cliche, the suspense, for me at least, was diluted.  I liked the book overall, but I think it did not deserve some of the outstanding reviews that it received.  It lacked the hard-hitting impact of the fictional Anatomy of a Murder or the semi-fictional play, Inherit the Wind.

If you decided to read this book anyway, watch out for the frequent Australian colloquialisms.  Having lived in Australia for 10 years, I understood them but they may be a bit of a bump in the road for some.  

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