Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Book Review: Anne Perry & the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

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.

My Review: 
I've been fascinated by this murder case ever since I saw Peter Jackson's film 'Heavenly Creatures' and I managed to dig up three books about it-eventually! This was by far the standout book and it goes into detail about the girls meeting, their home life, the fantasy world they create together, the murder and the aftermath, right up to what happened to all the main players.

The book opens with the day of the murder with really shocking details of the injuries suffered by Honorah-caved in head, broken jaw, finger hanging shows how brutal the attack by the two girls was. It switches next to the home of Juliet where Hilda Hulme and boyfriend Bill Perry try to get the girls stories straight and start trying to destroy incriminating evidence. Juliet's diary is destroyed and their clothes are put in to be dry cleaned. Seriously, this is tampering with evidence and nothing was done about it!

The story the girls tell to the police continually changes, with everyone trying to ensure that Juliet gets away with it and the blame is placed just on Pauline. This plan unravels when Pauline is caught in her cell writing notes for new diary entries, notes that prove they were both in it together, as Pauline's diary later proves. It seems incredible that an innocent friendship could turn so toxic to a point where the girls aren't caring much about being murderers.

The story goes back to how they met, and shows that neither had the best family life. Bert and Honorah ran away together and pretended to be married, providing a strict upbringing for Pauline. Bert lied to police continually when questioned about abandoning his first family. Juliet was continually sent away from her family for long periods to live with distant relatives every time she got sick or when her parents got tired of her. It's not surprising that she was troubled and aloof to them as she got older, feeling neglected and abandoned. Juliet changed school so often that she had trouble making friends and didn't really bother with anyone until she met Pauline.

The actual murder was thought to be because Honorah wanted to stop the girls being together after the Hulme's upcoming divorce. Juliet was to be sent to relatives in South Africa and Pauline wanted to go with her. The dreadful Hulmes pretended that they wanted the girls to stay together, even talking about passports and plans for the future. This was to keep Juliet calm until they were ready to send her away, and their cruel lies made it look as if it was only Honorah that stood in the way. This was what led to Pauline's plan to kill her mother. I blame the selfishness of the Hulmes painting Honorah as the bad guy for the poor woman's murder.

What stood out for me was the cold arrogance and indifference to the crime during the aftermath of the murder and trial. Frankly, Juliet never seemed to give a damn about anything but herself. She was even happy to sacrifice Pauline if it became necessary. She comes across as a total sociopath. Even those who watched her in prison said she never showed the slightest bit of remorse for the murder. However, Pauline reached out to her family and did seem to show remorse and be troubled about destroying her family. Once away from Juliet in a different prison her attitude changes and on her release she becomes a recluse that turns to religion. Juliet changed her name to Anne Perry and became a famous crime writer.

As a finale to the disgusting Hulmes, at the end of the trial they gave one of the lawyers a Parker pen to say thanks for your efforts. Parker was also Pauline's surname, the name she was charged under. Can you believe how twisted that is???

This is THE book to read if you are a fan of Heavenly Creatures, or have an interest in true crime.

star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png


  1. This whole case sounds entirely freaky. I remember you reviewing another book. I don't read a lot of true crime but this sounds like it would really be a good one to get into. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    1. I loved the film when I saw it-humour, fantasy scenes and the slow breakdown of each family. I was so pleased to get this book years later.

  2. I had wanted to see that movie, but never got to. Now I'm even more intrigued to watch it and read this book! Great review!

    1. it's one of my favourite films-I've seen it so often that I've nearly memorized the script! Peter Jackson did a great job with it.