A Child's Book Of True Crime

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9780099428954: A Child's Book Of True Crime

Kate Byrne is having an affair with the father of her most gifted pupil, Lucien. Unnervingly, her lover's wife has just published Murder at Black Swan Point, a true crime novel about the brutal slaying of a young adulteress. Suspecting the adult account of Black Swan Point's murder to be wrong, Kate imagines her own version of the novel, for children, narrated by Australian animals. But has her obsession with the crime aligned her fate with that of the murdered adulteress?

Compelled by the lives of her nine-year-old students, Kate is a misfit among their parents. And though, in scenes of escalating eroticism, Lucien's father brings her to life sexually, he does nothing to penetrate her obsession with the past. Kate is fixated on the crime of passion that occurred years earlier, less and less aware of her own reputation in the present.

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A Child's Book of True Crime

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Australian debut novelist Chloe Hooper's A Child's Book of True Crime is the chillingly erotic account of a disturbed young woman's adulterous journey to her own sexually dark core. When vulnerable trainee teacher Kate Byrne embarks on an affair with her most gifted student's father, she exposes herself to nightmare visions of the repercussions of her sins--the themes of crime and punishment hang heavily over the narrative, which is set in the former penal colony of Tasmania. Kate grows to identify so much with Ellie Siddell, whose bizarre 1983 murder at Black Swan Point is the subject of her lover's wife's true crime novel, that she imagines the pair are trying to kill her, just as Margot Harvey and her veterinary husband, Ellie's boss and lover, were implicated in Ellie's vicious murder.

As anyone who has read the Brothers Grimm will testify, fairy tales are far from innocently penned ditties and the wolf lying in wait for Red Riding Hood can be interpreted in many ways. Hooper knows this and plays with it. The novel opens with Kitty Koala and Terence Tiger stumbling across the bloody crime scene and interspersed between the episodes with the animals' investigating Ellie's murder is a very adult tale of deceit and treachery.

In Stalinist Russia, blacklisted writers and artists had embedded secret messages in children's literature. Beautiful books were created, full of allegory, and the adults would read them before bedtime and remain fast asleep; disguised as the naïve, subversive content was unrecognisable. Children, hearing snoring, would gently take the books from their parents' hands. They'd ... tiptoe off to read the real story."

In Hooper's world, the children are all-seeing and the adults are the ones blinded by desire. Everything is subverted. Whilst the adults' sexual games take on a child-like quality with Kate playing the naughty schoolgirl to Thomas's stern chider, the children discuss evolution, the existence of God and Truth. Although Kate eventually uncovers the answers to Ellie's murder, the reader is left with more questions than answers to Kate's identity. Hooper, who has a mentor in Philip Roth, enchantingly layers her slender novel with many equally dark and illuminating levels, leaving the reader to chase breathlessly after her elusive truth. --Nicola Perry

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