Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

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Overview

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 ...

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Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

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The 1954 New Zealand murder of Honora Parker might have been the murder of the century in Down Under lands, but I must admit that I didn't hear about it until I saw Heavenly Creatures in 1997. That fine film (which really sparked the careers of director Peter Jackson and actress Kate Winslet) vividly portrayed the story's background and the beating death of the mother of one of the two teenage girl murderers. The other killer I already knew as Anne Perry, the very talented mystery author. With name changes and geographical moves, she had managed to keep her connection with the crime secret for almost two decades. Even more than the film, however, Peter Graham's new book opens the doors, windows, and skylights on the case as never before. Thanks to his meticulous approach, we can now see the unfolding story as both archetypal and tethered to its era: Reading it, one sometimes feels that at the time, the media and public seemed more preoccupied that these "dirty-minded girls" might be lesbians than that they had incontrovertibly bludgeoned a defenseless mother to death with a brick. In any case, reading Graham's measured account enhanced my sense of the faithfulness of Peter Jackson's cinematic recreation and convinced me that even though this might not be the murder of the century, it does still possess a truly mythic aura. —R.J. Wilson, Bookseller, #1002, New York NY

Library Journal
In June 1954, one New Zealand teenage girl decides to help the other murder her mother, exposing a complicated story of love, delusion, and family secrets. New Zealand lawyer Graham’s (Vile Crimes: The Timaru Poisonings) well-researched book on the case that inspired filmmaker Peter Jackson’s 1994 movie Heavenly Creatures is a readable and eye-opening story of 1950s Christchurch and the complicated family dynamics that produced one of New Zealand’s most famous murder cases. The book explores not only the murder itself but the backgrounds of the two girls, Pauline Parker/Rieper and Juliet Hulme (now well-known mystery writer Anne Perry); their forbidden and rumored lesbian relationship; and their troubled family lives, as well as what happened after the young women were released from prison after serving “at Her Majesty’s pleasure.” There are few other books on this case, and this one looks at all sides of the debate around the girls’ motivation for the murder of Pauline’s mother, Honora. Graham uses primary source material like the girls’ diary entries, writing, and poetry, along with standard sources such as court reports, interviews with lawyers and psychiatrists, and police and news records to try to address still unanswered questions about the case.

Verdict Recommended for general readers, true-crime buffs, those interested in LGBT history, and fans of Heavenly Creatures.—Amelia Osterud, Carroll Univ. Lib., Waukesha, WI
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Washington Post - Anna Mundow
A comprehensive, well-researched examination not only of the crime and its aftermath but also of the killers’ lives, from childhood to the present day.

A concise yet engaging writer, Graham begins by asking, “What makes one act of murder fascinating, where another is merely sordid or banal?” Sex is an obvious answer, but Graham analyzes this aspect of the case with admirable coolness, resisting the temptation to identify lesbianism — or any other element in the drama — as the prime motivation. Like a punctilious courtroom lawyer, he presents the facts and his analysis, leaving the final verdict to the reader.

Kirkus Reviews
A New Zealand lawyer revisits the highly publicized, mysterious case of matricide in his country in 1954. Graham (Vile Crimes: The Timaru Poisonings, 2007) makes the old seem fresh as he tries to explain why teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme murdered Parker's mother during a walk in a nature area. The murder, sensational on its own, gained extra resonance later--once because of the Peter Jackson film about the case, Heavenly Creatures, and once after Hulme, released from prison, reinvented herself as best-selling novelist Anne Perry. Graham explores conundrums, such as the mental states of the teenagers at the time of the murder and afterward; whether the teenagers were starry-eyed lesbian lovers; and why each defendant served so little time given that they never expressed contrition. Turning his re-examination into a contemporary detective story, the author builds up drama about whether he will be able to locate Parker (who assumed a new identity) and Hulme. And if he can locate them, will they talk to him and reveal undisclosed details about the crime? Though Graham does not learn anything new from the perpetrators, he does gain insights from numerous other individuals who became enmeshed in the case. An epilogue informs readers about the fates of the major and minor players. Graham psychoanalyzes Parker and Hulme from afar but does so tastefully and insightfully. Matricide is a rare crime. As a result, it has not been written about much in the popular literature, a gap Graham fills admirably. A worthy retrospective that feels chilling in the manner of novelist Perry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620876305
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 102,427
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Graham served as a barrister for many years before turning to crime writing. In addition to Anne Perry, he is the author of Vile Crimes: The Timaru Poisonings. He lives in New Zealand.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Tale Well Told

    This is a clear, concise telling of the the murder in New Zealnd committed by 2 teenagers. This is not an exploitative book, and if provides interesting facts regarding the current lives these now-adult girls live.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    We never like to think our children are capable of doing horrif


    We never like to think our children are capable of doing horrific things and it’s even more difficult to understand when two individuals predisposed to such acts find each other. When that happens, behavior that may never have gone beyond thoughts can become reality and this seems to have been the case with Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker. The interesting thing to me is that Juliet was considered the dominant personality and, yet, it was Pauline’s desire to kill her mother that they carried out.

    Both girls thought they were “geniuses far above the common herd of mankind”, a personality trait frequently found in anti-social personality disorders. They had developed their own sort of religion in which sin could be a good thing although they didn’t appear to take it seriously; it was mostly a form of self-entertainment. Both were very narcissistic and showed no remorse when they were found out. In many ways, they mirror the 1924 case of Leopold and Loeb. As intelligent as they may have been, especially Juliet, they were really clumsy with their attack on Pauline’s mother and their ineptitude was probably due to lack of knowledge about such things but there is no doubt that impulse control was not a factor as they planned the murder in detail.

    Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century is a fascinating account of a sensational case. Modern-day readers from the US and other more “sophisticated” countries won’t recognize this as the murder of the century but it certainly was in 1950′s New Zealand. There are recognizable contributing elements such as the girls’ self-imposed isolation and their obsessive dependence on each other and it’s interesting that Juliet received much rougher treatment in prison for no apparent reason.

    Overall, the accounting of Juliet’s and Pauline’s lives after prison takes a harsher approach to Juliet, who took the name of Anne Perry in an attempt at anonymity. In particular, she is painted as an icy woman even in her 70′s and, with this, I must take some exception. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Perry in 2002 at a book event and spent a few moments chatting with her over my display of her books. She was nothing but charming and friendly and I suspect that her demeanor towards readers is quite different from how she reacts to those who pry into her life. At the time that I met her, I had not heard her story but, when I did a year or two later, it did not change my opinion that she is a likeable person. I believe Anne Perry is a prime example of the young person who commits a terrible act but is able to redeem herself in later life and would never pose a threat to anyone again. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of Mr. Graham‘s account of this crime and its aftermath but it’s time to let it rest. Anne Perry’s private life is hers to protect and I’m content to just enjoy her books.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Very much along the same lines of the movie- after the first 100

    Very much along the same lines of the movie- after the first 100 pages, it goes into the trial and what and where the girls are today. Well written, enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    Fascinating!!!

    This is a fascinating non-fiction book. I highly recommend it. It is unusual, odd, informative, and well written. It reads like fiction because it keeps your full attention. Another great book on the Nook is the novel "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. Both books deserve A+++++

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 21, 2014

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    Posted May 3, 2013

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    Posted August 27, 2013

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