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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Great Book Club Picks: Anne Perry

You know the scene. It’s your book club meeting, and you helped pick the book. You arrive at the meeting and find a handful of members couldn’t get past the first few chapters. A few were too busy to read it. And hardly anyone who did read the book really liked it all that much. You cringe. But it turns out to be a great night, leads to lots of lively discussion and makes you realize why reading together as a group is such a pleasurable experience.

This happened to me recently. The book was one of Anne Perry’s historical detective novels featuring the recurring character William Monk. Don’t get me wrong: Anne Perry’s books are extremely popular, get good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and nearly always land on the New York Times bestseller list. But midway through the discussion, my book club realized the book we really wanted to read was Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham (originally published as So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the Murder that Shocked the World).

Long before Anne Perry embarked on a successful career writing about murder, she spent time in prison for committing one. Perry (born Juliet Hulme) was 15 when she conspired with her best friend Pauline Parker to kill Parker’s mother. The girls were incensed that Honora Parker would not let Pauline leave New Zealand with Hulme after the latter’s parents separated and planned to return to England. The girls lured Mrs. Parker to a park and bludgeoned her with half of a brick, placed in a stocking. Their cover story easily picked apart, both girls spent time in prison. Hulme eventually moved to the United States, changed her name and began writing. Her identity was largely unknown until the 1994 film Heavenly Creatures brought new attention to the case. (An interesting side-note: Peter Jackson directed the film, which launched his successful, international directing career. The film starred a pre-Titanic Kate Winslet as Hulme.)

My book club normally begins its discussions with a consideration of the author’s biography. This night, no one wanted to move on to the actual book we were supposed to read. So, if provoking good discussion is what makes a book a good choice for book clubs, any of Anne Perry’s mysteries will do. Just make sure you check out Murder of the Century, too, because that’s the selection that will leave everyone talking.  

-Ginger Hawkins, Centreville Regional Library

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