A Child’s Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper
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?
First Impressions: Not sure… I didn’t realise it was set in Tasmania. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novel set in Tasmania before!
Highlights: I was surprised by all the references to Tasmania’s penal colony past but I liked this as it was an original way of highlighting how we brush over crime. Crimes of the past – either 10 or 150 years ago – are like an archaeological excavation, or a set of matrioshki dolls. Kate’s character was interesting in that I wondered how much of the Murder at Black Swan Point story was created in her mind. She’s very lonely with too much time to think. I would have liked her obsessiveness about her situation to be more pronounced.
If I was an editor: I think there’s too much going on in this novel. There are lots of good ideas in the novel – two I have mentioned in my highlights – but as there are so many of these ideas I don’t think any of them are developed enough to become clever like in Hooper’s second novel The Engagement.
I didn’t particularly enjoy Kate’s children’s novel. I didn’t have a problem that it was narrated by Australian animals but it was certainly not in children’s language and I still don’t fully understand why she is writing it for Lucien. Also, I felt the wise philosophical conversations she has with her students were unrealistic. Kate, being a new teacher, still owns all the textbooks about child psychology and by the end she was trying to assess Lucien but it wasn’t coherent enough across the novel. This is another example of a narrative strand that could have been brilliant but was not given enough space.
Overall: Could be a very interesting meditation on adultery.
A Child’s Book of True Crime: 3 Stars