I skipped through huge portions of this mind-numbing book. Crime is my favorite genre and this case is supposedly one of the most notorious but I couldn’t even come close to finishing it.
Sue Williams is a master of the plodding; it seems her one determination was to relate every minute detail no matter how dull or extraneous it is. She drags in unrelated crimes without explanation, leaving the reader frustrated and confused, and she invents thoughts, actions, and feelings which she could not possibly know about.
Moreover, the author burdens the book with uninteresting passages about various parts of Australia, a continent which ordinarily intrigues me. But this time I was repelled by its endless, empty spaces and barren highways that go on forever. The description of the thundering, immensely long tractor trailers is enough to put any prospective tourist off.
The fact that this crime occurred on a continent little known in the rest of the world cannot by itself make the story enthralling, and in my opinion it never contained the mix of mystery and horror colliding with the lives of sympathetic or at least colorful victims that alone would merit a book-length treatment. That Peter Falconio’s body is still missing is tragic but it cannot transform a commonplace crime into one of enduring interest. It is also not enough that these were English visitors attacked on foreign soil.
This case is so run-of-mill, and the victims so bland and even repellent in the case of Joanne Lees, that the reader’s sympathy is never engaged. It never had any flavor of the strange or mysterious but was the kind of thing you read about every day in the local paper – a chance encounter of a couple with a rapist on the prowl. Even a crime needs some oddity to merit a book, an overlong book at that.
As we have come to expect in this kind of uninspired exercise the author also wastes time on the careers of various detectives and attorneys. This is nothing but padding and should be outlawed in this genre from now to eternity.
I have dipped back into the book at various points hoping to find something fascinating or at least borderline interesting, but I cannot. Possibly I am simply put off by the mediocrity of the killer, a man of the most inferior sort, a drugged-up lowlife, nothing but a thug. I hoped for at least some individuality, some weird distinction as, for instance, in the case of Ted Bundy, or perhaps some mindless ferocity as in the case of an altogether incomprehensible killing machine like Ivan Milat and his clan.
To make matters worse, Joanne Lees, the surviving victim, evokes not a shred of sympathetic interest in the reader. Impelled by some quirk of nature, she seemed determined to alienate or puzzle everyone who had to deal with her after the killing, everyone whose help and expertise she needed. And even the author, whose object you might think was to depict her as a victim deserving some warm concern, is hard pressed to find excuses for this chilly, repellent human being. I am not even sure she had an actual personality. Was she an automaton? Was she a dismal cartoon character? Certainly it was irrational for her to alienate the press persistently over a four year span. She seems to have had a visceral necessity to make herself everywhere detested, resented and an object of suspicion. In fact, until the last few pages and maybe even then, Joanne comes off as the most hostile, unsympathetic victim I have ever read about.
I seriously regret having spent good money on this incredibly dull book with its odious central character.