I recently read The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton and I must say I was very disappointed. I have loved reading Anne Perry books since I was in high school and regularly pre-order her new books, however, this book was just awful.
First, let me explain what the book is about. When Anne Perry was 15 years old, she along with her best friend Pauline Parker murdered Pauline’s mother, Honorah. The book was supposed to be an authorized literary biography of Anne Perry which drew parallels between Anne’s life and her writing, and explained/examined Anne’s miscarriages of justice, her secret and what happened on that fateful day as well as the events leading up to the murder. Instead, I found a majority of the book to be summaries of Anne’s books with only snippets of the trial, Anne’s relationship with Pauline, and the after math. I feel that 125 pages of the 334 pages of book are summaries and details of how happy Anne was when her books were well received, completely unnecessary. Drayton over emphasized Anne’s long list of published books and instead downplayed this major event in Anne’s life, which was to be the crux of the book. I realize Anne hid this terrible act for 40 some years before it was discovered, but an opportunity to really get into the mind of 15 year old Anne and how it shaped her life and writing was terribly missed.
So, here is the murder, the trial, prison, and life after in a nutshell.
Anne and Pauline:
Anne Perry was born Juliet Hulme, to finically well off and highly educated parents. Anne’s father, Henry Hulme, was a physicist who was appointed rector of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch when Anne was around 13-14 years old. Anne suffered from tuberculosis and was often sent by her parents to the Bahamas to live with family and recuperate. Anne felt abandoned by her parents and did not develop a close bond with them early in her life. As Anne recovered, she returned to live with her parents and younger brother in Christchurch, New Zealand. Anne’s father, while loving and supportive, was often working and her mother was very liberal in raising Anne, believing Anne should be allowed to make her own choices and set her own rules. Anne had no real friends growing up and had a difficult time adjusting in school whenever her family moved. Finally, Anne’s family placed her in the private school Christchurch Girl’s High School. Anne had always excelled academically and was immediately placed in advanced level classes. It was here that she met Pauline Parker.
Pauline and Anne’s early childhood was very similar. Pauline came from a working class family and suffered from Osteomyelitis as a girl and was often left out by other children. Pauline could not by physically active like other children, thus she felt alone and depressed. Later, during the trial, it was discovered Pauline’s parents were not actually married. Her father was married to another woman and had another family that he had abandoned for Pauline’s mother, Honorah. This fact brought even more shame and embarrassment to the family and Pauline. Later, during the trial, it was discovered Pauline’s parents were not actually married. Her father was married to another woman and had another family that he had abandoned for Pauline’s mother, Honorah. This fact brought even more shame and embarrassment to the family and Pauline. Like Anne, Pauline was academically gifted and excelled in school. Anne and Pauline bonded over their illnesses that precluded them from childhood activities, their intelligence, and for each, their first friendship which proved to be very powerful.
Neither of the girls had experienced friendships before. This lack of previous friendships may have caused them to view their friendship as more important than other relationships that have or would exist. As the girls’ bond became stronger, they developed their own shared beliefs which included, a rejection of Christianity where they created and worshipped their own saints (mostly movie stars and singers), wrote their own fiction and then lived it, developed a parallel dimension called The Fourth World (their version of Heaven), and ultimately devised a plan to runaway to Hollywood together to have their stories published and then turned into films. As their friendship developed and intensified, Pauline and Anne’s parents began to fear the girls’ relationship was unhealthy and homosexual, a fact Anne Perry denies even to this day. About half a year before the murder Anne’s parents were going to do a small tour for her father’s work. Anne fell ill, a relapse in her Tuberculosis, and could not accompany them. Instead of canceling the tour or having her mother stay home with Anne, they sent her to stay with Pauline’s family for the weeks while they and her brother were gone. Despite being with her best friend, this act left Anne feeling, yet again, abandoned by her family and alone pushing Anne closer to Pauline. Several months after Anne’s parents returned, Anne discovered her mother was having an affair with another man, Bill Perry, and her parents were separating. Anne was devastated as was Pauline who had come to view the Hulmes as her parents as well. During this time the girls were also unaware that the Hulmes and Parker were collaborating in an effort to separate the girls. Both of the girls’ parents felt the relationship was very unhealthy and homosexual (during this period in time, homosexuality was thought to be a mental illness) and they needed to intervene for the safety of the girls. The decision was made that after Anne’s parents divorced, Anne would go to live with her father in South Africa. Pauline would obviously stay with her parents in New Zealand.
When Pauline and Anne found out about their impending separation Pauline grew frantic. . Of the four parents, Pauline’s mother, Honorah was most concerned about the friendship and often kept Pauline and Anne from seeing each other; particularly when Pauline lost a large amount of weight forgoing eating to instead write fiction stories to share with Anne. The girls attempted to persuade Pauline’s mother to allow Pauline to live with Anne and her father in South Africa, but Honorah ultimately refused, thus sealing her fate. In Pauline’s panicked mind she decided that if her mother were no longer alive then she would be allowed to live with Anne in South Africa. Pauline told Anne the only way for them to stay together was to kill her mother. Anne agreed to help. Pauline, an avid journal keeper, kept daily updates on their plan. Something that would later come back to haunt the girls and help convict them of murder.
On June 22, 1954 with Anne’s impending move, Honorah decided to spend some time with Pauline and take her out to lunch. Pauline asked if Anne might come along, to which her mother agreed since she knew Anne would be leaving soon. Pauline and Anne decided that on this day they would kill Honorah. The pair determined Anne would pretend to drop something and when Honorah bent to pick it up they would hit her in the head. Before they left for lunch Pauline stuffed a brick inside of a sock and hid it in her purse.
The three had lunch and then went for a walk in Victoria Park, where Anne and Pauline put their plan into action. Once the three were deep into the park Anne walked ahead and dropped part of her brooch. Pauline, with her mother and behind Anne, pointed out something on the ground. When Honorah bent over to see what it was Pauline hit Honorah in the head with a brick inside a sock. The two teens mistakenly thought the weight of the brick alone would be enough to kill Honorah, but they were wrong. Pauline, later in a confession to the police stated, “I killed my mother. Had made up my mind to do it some days before. I don’t know how many times I hit her; a great many, I imagine.” Reports vary on how many times Honorah was bludgeoned; accounts vary from 17-45 times. Pauline and Anne later stated that once Pauline had hit Honorah and they saw her lying on the ground bleeding, they knew they had to kill her, there was no turning back. Anne took the sock from Pauline and hit Honorah. Pauline then took the sock back and hit her mother in the head many more times.
After the girls had killed Honorah they ran back to the shop, where they had just eaten an hour before, screaming that Pauline’s mother was injured. The two were hysterical and covered in blood. They told the owner Pauline’s mother had fallen and hit her head and the two, in an effort to try and move her and get her to help claim they dropped her several times because she was too heavy for them. Two men went to look for Honorah while the shop owner called the police and Anne’s father.
Immediately the police knew this was no accident and suspected foul play. There was no evidence anywhere of a fall or anything Honorah could have even fallen on. The police interviewed the two girls separately at Anne’s home. Anne’s parents sat with her during her interview, but Pauline’s father was absent, at the hospital, and her mother dead. During her first confession Pauline took all the blame claiming Anne knew nothing of what was to happen and since she was walking ahead of her and her mother, Anne did not know Pauline had even struck her mother. After two different confessions from both Anne and Pauline the girls caved and confessed to the murder and their involvement. Both were arrested on June 23 and charged with murder.
Pauline’s diary was relied heavily on by the prosecution. The diary had an entry for almost every day and painted a picture of an obsessive relationship between the girls as well as Pauline’s complete hatred for her mother. Almost the entire diary was entered into evidence, but it was used mostly against Pauline who was after all the author. In her diary Pauline calls Anne, Deborah.
“February 23th, 1954: Why could not Mother die? Dozens, thousands of people are dying. Why not Mother, and Father too? Life is very hard.”
“April 28th: Anger against Mother boiling inside me as she is the main obstacle in my path. Suddenly, means of ridding myself of the obstacle occur to me. If she were to die…”
“June 20th: Deborah and I talked for some time. Afterwards, we discussed our plans for moidering Mother and made them clear. But peculiarly enough, I have no qualms of conscience. Or is it peculiar? We are so made.”
(The term “moider” had apparently been acquired by the pair in reading crime fiction. It is the Brooklyn pronunciation of the word “murder”.)
“June 21st: Deborah rang and we decided to use a brick in a stocking rather than a sandbag. Mother has fallen in with plans beautifully. Feel quite keyed up.”
“June 22nd: I felt very excited last night and sort of nightbefore-Christmas, but I did ‘not have pleasant dreams. I am about to rise.”
And the top of the page for June 22nd was headed in printed letters: “The Day of the Happy Event.”
The girls sat in the docket on either side of the wardress and kept their heads down for most of the trial. One report stated the girls at times had their heads bowed almost to their knees. Neither girl took the stand and let their attorneys do most of the arguing. The girls were seen by numerous doctors from both the prosecution and the defense to determine if they were sane. Both were found to be sane. Anne later stated she loathed her attorneys for attempting to claim she was insane. Anne admits the relationship was obsessive, but she was never insane and it was never homosexual. Anne states she had a misplaced since of loyalty to Pauline and the isolation of their friendship had clouded her better and reasonably judgment. Anne and Pauline’s attorneys argued the two were not only insane but also suffered from paranoia, and needed help, not prison time.
Both girls were found guilty of murder. Normally the penalty for murder is death, but the girls’ young age saved them from the noose. Instead they were remanded to imprisonment during Her Majesty’s pleasure. This means that there was no set end to the girls’ sentence. They would remain in prison as long as the court saw fit; potentially their whole lives.
After the sentencing, the courts became concerned about separating the girls. There were only two places they could go, the only decision to make was who would go where. Pauline stayed where she was, a more modern prison, while Anne was sent to Mt Eden women’s prison in Auckland. Mt. Eden can best be described as hell on earth. Mt. Eden was basically a medieval prison, there was no AC or heat, and the women slept on straw mattresses and were give 5 or 6 blankets to keep warm in the winter. There was no toilet so the women used chamber pots. Executions were no longer allowed to be public, so all were carried out in the court yard here. Anne witnessed several hangings, all of which she says she’d like to forget. The women were forced to work all day. One of the chores was in the laundry room washing everything by hand in large barrels and using turn crank dryers to wring out the water. The water logged sheets made the laundry insanely heavy. The work was physically draining, and Anne who had suffered from Tuberculosis since a baby was not in the best health to perform the work to begin with. The lack of AC and the crippling work in addition to Anne’s illness caused her to have breathing and exhaustion problems and soon after arriving she began fainting from the work and was sent to the medical ward. After recovering Anne was excused from hard labor and instead spent her days in the sewing room sewing clothes for prisoners. Anne was the only child prisoner there. The idea was to have the girls’ alternate prisons every few years to keep them separate and to keep things fair. Pauline never spent time at Mt. Eden.
After a few years, I believe 3 or 4, Anne was sent to the modern prison where Pauline was. While Pauline had attempted to keep in touch with Anne, the prison never delivered her letters to Anne, Anne had completely written Pauline off. Anne acknowledged she had done something terrible and needed to pay. Anne also said she had helped Pauline out of confused loyalty, her better judgment had been clouded and she thought it best to never speak to Pauline again. After several years of not hearing from Anne, Pauline too seemed to let the friendship go. Several prison officials, and outside influential government officials took special interest in Anne and her brilliance and arranged for her to be privately taught while in prison. Anne easily passed her A levels and University entrance test. Pauline too continued her education through the mail and passed University entrance test. Both girls were described as model prisoners.
5 years after the two girls were found guilty they were told they were going to be released from prison. It was arranged that the two would be released 2 weeks apart and the media would not be told to give them some time to get a head start and leave New Zealand. Each was allowed to choose a new name to live by. It was another 10 years before Anne would change her name from her protective name to Anne Perry (Perry taken for Bill Perry who her mother married shortly after Anne was sent to prison) and begin writing novels. After many rejections from publishers stating her writing and character development was brilliant but she lacked a good plot, Bill Perry suggested they take place during the Victoria era. Anne loved the idea and in 1979 Perry’s first book The Carter Street Hangman was published, widely accepted and she has not looked back. To date, Anne has sold more than 26 million books and published more than 50 novels. Anne has several series, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, William and Hester Monk, The World War I, Christmas Stories (a short book is released every year at Christmas), Timepiece series (YAL) and several other books.
Peter Jackson’s movie Heavenly Creatures exposed Anne’s secret that she had kept for so long. When reporters began calling Anne’s publishers to let them know they would be publishing articles exposing Anne’s past life, Anne’s publishers’ begged reporters not to reveal that Juliet Hulme was Anne Perry, but the reporters refused saying the public had a right to know. Anne and Pauline’s crime was well documented throughout the papers during their trial, it was by no means a “secret” or unknown case, their new identities and lives they had received and built since their release were still a secret. Anne was terrified that with the release of the movie she her publishers would drop her, book sales would stop, she would lose her friends, her newly mended relationship with her mother and family, and all she held dear. Luckily for Anne, her true friends stood by her and recognizing she was 15 at the time and was now a much different and wiser person. She had paid for her part in the crime so the past was the past. Drayton’s book was supposed to tell Anne’s side, the hardships and fear she faced when Heavenly Creatures premiered, yet Drayton glossed over this. I know the book was authorized by Perry so much she probably didn’t want discussed. But, at this point with her identity pretty well known, take the opportunity to really push your side and not hide or have the book written so vaguely people wonder, but what else?
I rate this book, 1 out of 5 stars.