Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton

The Search for Anne Perry: The Hidden Life of a Bestselling Crime Writer by Joanne Drayton --- 352 pages, including End Notes, Bibliography and Index.

In 1994 film director Peter Jackson established an international reputation with his breakthrough film, Heavenly Creatures, a dramatic story based on a notorious real life murder in his native New Zealand in the 1950s,

The two teenage girls convicted of murdering one's mother, served five years in prison before being released, given new identities, and allowed to leave New Zealand. Both girls disappeared into new lives.

Fast forward forty years, to the day when best selling Victorian crime writer Anne Perry's agent receives a call from a New Zealand reporter announcing that she has identified Perry as one of the two adolescent murderers. This is the scene that opens Drayton's literary biography.

Drayton traces Perry's painful personal odyssey of self-redemption by juxtaposing her unhappy childhood and feelings of abandonment by and alienation from her parents with her solitary struggle to establish a new identity and find redemption through her writing. She is clearly sympathetic to Perry's situation. At the same time, although she acknowledges that Perry and her closest associates agreed to extensive interviews and provided access to personal materials, Drayton insists that this is not an "authorized" biography. Perry did not review or approve the book before publication; in fact, Drayton says to her knowledge Perry has never and most likely will never read the book.

As a fan of Perry's two best known mystery series, the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series and the William Monk series, I found this book interesting, although not as vivid in recreating events and people as an earlier work, Anne Perry and the Crime of the Century, by New Zealand author and attorney Peter Graham. Graham also did a better job of presenting the story of the other girl convicted, Pauline Parker, the daughter of the murder victim. The biggest weakness in Drayton's book, I think, is that she gives short shrift to Pauline and her unhappy family.

Click HERE to read a New Zealand review of the book.

Click HERE to read a Canadian review, and HERE to read an American review.

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