Friday, 15 April 2016

Book Review: The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton

The world knew Anne Perry as the writer of bestselling crime fiction. After the release of Heavenly Creatures, about the 1954 Parker-Hulme murders, a shocking revelation came to light. Anne Perry is actually Juliet Hume - the teenager convicted of jointly murdering her friend's mother. This book tells her story.

My Review:
I first saw Peter Jackson's brilliant film Heavenly Creatures not long after it came out, and the fact that it was based on the diary of one of the girls involved intrigued me. For those who don't know the story, in 1950's New Zealand, two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, murdered Pauline's mother when the girls were to be seperated by Juliet moving to South Africa. Both girls were jailed and then started new lives with new identities after being released. When the film was released media interest meant the hunt was on to find the girls. Juliet Hulme turned out to be British crime writer Anne Perry, sending ripples through the literary world.

I searched for years to find books about the crime and trial with no success until I found this book recently. The author had complete access to Anne Perry and her friends so I was fascinated at the thought of getting her side of the story. Juliet/Anne is a fascinating woman and I very much liked the chance to see her as a person and read behind the headlines. Sadly, I don't feel that the author has really done justice to Anne or the subject matter and it feels more like a fan reviewing the books, than a serious look at Anne's life.

Why do I say that? The author spends countless pages at a time, ploughing through the plot and characters of every new release Anne brings out during the book-and that is a lot of books. Ms Drayton includes social commentary on Victorian morals and applying comparisons to Anne's life. Frankly, I found this very boring and it dragged on for too much of the book. After the third book analysis, I started skipping these sections. It was either that or abandon the book. I wasn't a fan of the religious parts of the book as I don't like reading that kind of thing but being a Mormon was an important part of Anne's life and rehabilitation and it was needed in the book, so I didn't mind it really. It doesn't overpower the story so that was ok.

The good bits! There isn't a massive amount of Juliet's life and her friendship with Pauline but what is there is very interesting to read. Anne talks a bit about the arrest, trial, her issues with her parents, the importance of having found a best friend in Pauline, the fear of them being parted because of the Hulmes divorcing and the horrific conditions inside the prison that Juliet was in. It sounded more like a Chamber of Horrors. While I agree that prisons need to be a place nobody wants sent to in order to reduce crime, I don't agree with these draconian prisons where prisoners get bad food and wallow in their own filth. It sounded like a dreadful experience so I can get why Anne doesn't want to talk much about it. I also found her struggles as a writer interesting, and the countless problems she had with her publishers shows how difficult it was to get a good deal. The aftermath of her being 'outed' and her relationship with her mother was also good to read about.

Anne Perry has had quite a life and I found her to be totally different from my expectations. Anne indicated that she was sorry for what she did but whether that apology was to save her carreer or if it was genuine is open to question after reading another book on the subject. However I feel that I'm not here to judge her or pass comment on her character or crimes as this review is about the book and how I found her as a subject. If there had been less of the book review and social commentary, I would certainly have given it more. I'm giving it 3 stars because of how interesting Anne and her story are. Had I been marking it on author style and content, I would have given it 2 stars.
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png


  1. I had no idea about Perry and reading your review, I sort of got the chills. Too bad you found it boring and slow at times because it sounds like it had the potential to be fantastic. Perry certainly did a good job reinventing herself.

    1. I guess it shows that however bad your crime, some people can be rehabilitated. Anne was a fascinating person to read about-as Juliet and as an author trying to start a career. There was some good stuff in the book. I have another book that focuses on the girls friendship, arrest, trial and aftermath and I'm looking forward to reading that.