Book review: So Brilliantly Clever by Peter Graham

 This book is in stores now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

58 years ago a murder occurred in New Zealand’s Garden City.  Christchurch in the 1950’s was a very different time and place to the world we live in today.  Murder in this time was not a daily occurrence.  The lives of two families would be forever intertwined due to the friendship of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker.

I admit to being a huge fan of murder mysteries – what drives a person to commit murder – are some people just born evil or are some people just changed by the circumstances thrust upon them?

In this fascinating piece of New Zealand history, Peter Graham delves deeply into these very questions – what drives a daughter to kill her mother? What causes the mother of another child to destroy material  evidence?  What really happened that fateful day in Victoria Park? Was the sanity verdict correct – or was it a case of Folie à deux?

Graham’s research into the case is staggering – here we have access to transcripts from the trial, in-depth analysis into the psyche of these two teenagers, and insight into the lives of these two women nearly six decades later.

Of course many would have first heard of this trial through the acclaimed Peter Jacskon movie Heavenly Creatures, but there is so much more to this story that could never have been told on the screen.

Whilst I found this book fascinating there were a few things that bothered me.  Namely – well names! After reading the book we discover that there were many names for the people associated with this trial – the girls themselves had many nick-names for each other, however the frequent name changes of the mother between Parker and Rieper were, I must admit, very confusing at the beginning.  My wish was that there was a more detailed breakdown of who was who in this case.  And (my pet hate) I found at least two bad typos in this particular copy.  Where was the editor?

However these are minor quibbles, but I DO believe a review should dish it all out – the good and the bad.

On the whole I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating case, has an interest in New Zealand and Christchurch in the middle of the 20th century – far different from our current social network-driven lives, or just, like me, loves a really good read.  It is quite simply (apologies for the bad English) “un put-downable”

Reviewed by Julia Leathwick

So Brilliantly Clever
by Peter Graham
Published by Awa Press
ISBN  9781877551123

7 thoughts on “Book review: So Brilliantly Clever by Peter Graham

  1. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but
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    • (Emma) Oh that’s happened to me before too and it’s SO annoying! I recommend writing out long comments in Word first then copying and pasting. Not classy, but saves frustration. And thanks for the comment!

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