by Joanne Drayton
This is a very good exploration of Anne Perry and her struggle to move forward from the knowledge that she murdered the mother of her adolescent soulmate. The murder and trial is explored in detail, as well as her childhood and her personality and what factors led to the murder. Some thought is given how such a talented good woman could have committed such a horrible act. Unlike many of the other reviewers, I thoroughly enjoyed the critiques of each of her books and how they give insights into her psyche. In one notable passage, one of Anne’s characters explains how easy it is to kill someone by hitting them on the back of the head! (Just get them to reach down for something!!) This is of course how Julia and Pauline murdered Pauline’s mother. I enjoyed them because I have read all of the Pitts and have a passing familiarity with the Monk series. The biography jumps back and forth between her childhood climaxing in the murder and trial, and her life as a successful author leading to the movie Heavenly Creatures which created such a furor around her. This is fine, except that it is haphazardly done. There are important threads left hanging ( her efforts to get television series based on her Pitt and Monk mysteries. Only the pilot was made of The Cater Street Hangman. Why?) Although Anne is a very devout Mormon and her faith has been crucial to her ability to forgive herself and create a successful life, how does she deal with some of the negative aspects of that faith that seem to contradict her feminist values? Her mother was not an ideal parent, her and her father’s bad parenting decisions certainly contributed to the tragedy. Yet Anne is unfailingly supportive and protective. Joanne Drayton obviously enjoyed unparalleled access to Anne and her friends and literary partners. It is a very sympathetic portrait, but she does not shy away from exploring her eccentricities and her novels that were not as well-received or as beloved as her detective fiction. In fact, a little less time on her Mormon novels would have been welcome. Yes, I get it, these are the ones Anne loves the most and probably give the most clues to her inner life. I also wish her continuing horror at meeting Pauline again had been explored a little more. Pauline Parker has made very much a success of her life and is also respected and liked by her community.
One does get the idea that Drayton did not push Anne to talk about anything she did not want to talk about. Some reviewers have bemoaned the fact that Anne has not publicly prostrated herself on the funeral pyre of remorse and mea culpas at every opportunity (and for the public’s entertainment?). But that is not Anne Perry. She is very reserved, dignified, and controlled. She has expressed remorse and taken responsibility and blame. And yes, perhaps she has blocked out some of the horrific aspects of her participation in the murder. Even finding excuses and justifications (It was the meds!). If that is what she had and has to do to move forward and rehabilitate herself, then God bless her. Would that all murderers released from prison had the strength of character and the resolve to do what she has done. It was very brave and even shocking for Anne to authorize a biography considering her private nature. I hope she is happy with it. **4 stars out of 5**
April 16, 2017