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The Search for Anne Perry  By  cover art

The Search for Anne Perry

By: Joanne Drayton
Narrated by: Susannah Tyrrell
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Publisher's summary

An authorized, literary biography of crime writer Anne Perry, formerly known as Juliet Hulme, one of the murderers immortalized in the acclaimed film Heavenly Creatures. In 1994, director Peter Jackson released the film Heavenly Creatures, based on a famous 1950s matricide committed in New Zealand by two teenage girls embroiled in an obsessive relationship. This film launched Jackson's international career. It also forever changed the life of Anne Perry, an award-winning, best-selling crime writer, who at the time of the film's release was publicly outed as Juliet Hulme, one of the murderers. A new light was now cast, not only on Anne's life, but also her novels, which feature gruesome and violent deaths, and confronting, dark issues including infanticide and incest.

Acclaimed literary biographer Joanne Drayton intersperses the story of Anne's life with an examination of her writing, drawing parallels between Anne's own experiences and her characters and storylines. Anne's books deal with miscarriages of justice, family secrets exposed, punishment, redemption, and forgiveness, themes made all the more poignant in light of her past. Anne has sold 25 million books worldwide and published in 15 different languages, yet she will now forever be known as a murderer who became a writer of murder stories. Drayton was been given unparalleled access to Anne, her friends, relatives, colleagues, and archives to complete the book. The result is a compelling listen which provides an understanding of the girl Anne was, the adult she became, her compulsion to write, and her view of the world.

©2012, 2014 Joanne Drayton (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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The last 1/3 is the best

I’m a true crime buff. The murder of Honorah Parker by her teenage daughter Pauline and the girl’s best friend Juliet Hulme caught my eye in the mid 1990s with the movie HEAVENLY CREATURES. When I discovered Juliet was now best selling mystery writer Anne Perry, I was even more intrigued. Since then I’ve read everything I could about the murders and what became of the teens. THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY is the most interesting, if you’re patient enough to sift through all the boring parts of the biography.

Joanne Drayton’s introduction left me hopeful THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY would read more like a memoir than a textbook. Unfortunately Drayton chose to tell the story through the Perry’s books and characters. If I was an Anne Perry fan, I would have enjoyed THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY more. I tried to like the writer but found her work overly descriptive for the type of mystery/thriller I enjoy. Since Perry has written over fifty books, you can imagine how arduous. The last third of the book detailing the murder and trial as well as Perry’s current life was much more interesting.

Dayton did her homework with pages of sources and footnotes. She found some info about Pauline, now Hillary Nathan, although Hillary wouldn’t speak to her.

Some thoughts on the trial:

Defense psychiatrists tried to show the girls were insane siting a rare delusional condition called folie a deux, which was what I surmised after watching HEAVENLY CREATURES, before reading any of the books. Folie a deux is a shared psychosis, where two or more close individuals experience the same beliefs/delusions. As individuals, they aren’t necessarily psychotic (though they may be) but the symbiotic relationship between the individuals creates the condition.

Forensic psychology, in its infancy when the murders took place in 1954, bears no resemblance to what we do today. The prosecution and defense argued insane vs bad. The prosecutor’s “evidence” included homosexuality (which both girls denied), fantasy play, (which was unchristian) which the defense saw as evidence of mental illness.

Whether or not the girls were lesbians is material only because of the era when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and also judged as perverse. PARKER AND HULME: A LESBIAN VIEW explores the issue of their sexual orientations in depth. My opinion of that book was that the writers set out to prove lesbianism as opposed to investigate the possibility. That book was published in 1995, when more people were in that out of the closet and LGBT folks had no rights, so the exploration of Parker and Hulme’s orientations were now newsworthy than they’d be.

After their release from prison, Perry and Nathan led remarkable similar lives, except for Perry’s writing career. Both women became deeply religious. Neither has committed another crime or act of violence. They lived somewhat isolated lives, Hillary is almost reclusive. Hillary has never spoken publicly about her mother’s murder, Anne was forced because she was discovered by reporters.

THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY mentioned Anne’s anxiety after being discovered. When on press tours, interviewers were more interest in her own story and she began to panic before scheduled meetings. In my own relentless pursuit to reading everything, I never stopped to think about the cost to Anne before reading THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY. I’m torn between curiosity and guilt for wanting to know more.

I skimmed through parts of THE SEARCH FOR ANNE PERRY as if I was on a treasure hunt looking for gems about the murders and Anne’s life. I do recommend this biography as the best of a very boring bunch.

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