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Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

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On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme--better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry--and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline's mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline's mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora's determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson's Academy Award-nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.

A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls' relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time.

341 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Peter Graham

13 books13 followers
Peter Graham, born 1947 in New Zealand.

Librarian’s note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Peter Graham is a retired barrister who has worked in Hong Kong for over thirty years. Peter Graham now lives in New Zealand and is a true crime writer.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 613 reviews
Profile Image for Katherine.
622 reviews28 followers
June 20, 2013
How does one assign stars to this story of two self-centered teens who murdered the mother of one of them--so brutally that now, almost 60 years later, the details are still too horrible to read and the act too inhuman to imagine? I didn't like it---the subject matter was too frightening. I did like it--the author did a very thorough job of describing these young women, their lives and homes, their relationship, the murder, the trial and their sentences, outrageously too short--5 and a half years!!! So 3 stars? It was more than okay. Can it be said I really liked it? or that it was amazing? I don't think so but it was an engrossing story and I read the book in three days.

It totally boggles my mind how these girls could commit the crime they did and show no remorse, no sense of guilt. Indeed, one of them, after spending time in two horrendous jails, walked out a young 21 year old, boarded a plane with a passport and new name supplied by the government and returned to life as usual. Never looking back--on with the social set with whom her family dealt and eventually in mid-life into a career that made her a millionaire with a lifelong female companion, and a lovely home in a lovely Scottish setting. Don't think with all her travels around the world promoting her books that she gave any public readings in New Zealand.

The other, the daughter of the woman slain, wasn't as fortunate. She had to remain in New Zealand once she was released--on parole. Don't know why she was so closely monitored while her cohort was not but it is most likely the result of social standing shall we say. She, when released from parole, had to petition to change her name but may have been provided the money and passport to leave by the government--that is not make clear. She wandered from job to job--working with young girls, for heavens sake, in some instances. She found God, through the Roman Catholic faith, attempted to become a nun but washed out--again not clear why but it may be that her penchant for physical contact with other women may have played a part. Wound up also in Scotland but in a bit less lavish condition in a somewhat less attractive setting. A recluse, also with a female companion, very nasty and bitter.

They are in their seventies now--a bit older than I. I wonder if they ever think of the woman whose life they took at the age of 47. They've had almost 30 years more life than she did and though Anne Perry referred to her as an unhappy woman ( and therefore, no great loss ) I'm sure given a choice she would have chosen more time. She certainly would have chosen a gentler death. Perry's comments in recent years don't show anymore remorse now than when she sat in court laughing and giggling and whispering with her co-defendant. She claims not to have read this book or any others dealing with the crime, nor seen any movies or plays based on it. I'm glad--she would get too much satisfaction from reading the impact they had on the psychiatrists, lawyers, policemen, and prison officials with whom they came in contact.

Though I'm sure it will have no impact on her, though I've enjoyed several of her books, I will not be purchasing or reading any more of them. The father of the girl whose mother was murdered went to court to prevent her inheriting any of her mother's estate--he did not want her to benefit from her crime. While it isn't quite the same situation, I don't want Anne Perry to benefit from my purchase of her books.

How strange that one of the murderers of the Dartmouth professors is named Parker. This story so closely resembles this more recent one, it is chilling!
Profile Image for Regina.
40 reviews
May 22, 2014
Until this book popped up in my suggestion feed, I had no idea that Anne Perry and Juliet Hulme were one and the same. As a longtime fan of the Pitt and Monk novels I was quite surprised and more than a little disturbed.

Upon finishing the book I watched Reflections of the Past: An Open Discussion of the Parker/Hulme Murder Case, as well as Anne Perry: Interiors. (both available through Amazon streaming)

Ms. Perry still takes little responsibility for her actions so long ago. In her own words she says she knew it was "stupid" but if she didn't go along Pauline would kill herself. It's interesting to see that now she lives in a remote area of Scotland, the center of the universe for the few people who are around her on a daily basis; her every need and wish catered to and by their own admission her moods affecting those of the people around her. She controls the life of every person she allows to inhabit her world.

Not unlike the young Juliet described in Mr. Graham's book.

Most interesting to learn is that Ms.Perry handwrites all her novels, employing a typist who comes in daily. I wonder if this harkens back to her young days of writing fanciful stories with her friend Pauline?

The book itself is very well researched; we see a portrait of what family life was like for the girls and how their obsession for each other came to the violent crescendo which caused the death of Honorah Parker. I do wish there were more details about what happened to Pauline while she was in custody: for example did she get the same level of therapy Juliet was treated to? And why wasn't she given a new name and hustled out of the country upon release as was Juliet?

It's a pity that we do not have Juliet's diaries from that period to compare with Pauline's which were so damning during the trial. Alas, all we have are Ms. Perry's words today-which play down her own involvement and lay the blame squarely with Pauline. When she finally shows emotion at the end of the Interiors film, it seems so contrived as to be chilling.

We learn from the book that Pauline now has a new name; she has lived the majority of her life as a recluse since her release from prison. Ironically, the "girls" have lived only about a hundred miles apart for quite some time, though there is no indication they've met since being released.

I'd recommend the book for anyone who reads true-crime genre; but don't expect a feeling of resolution once completed. There are simply too many unanswered questions left, and Ms. Perry/Juliet doesn't appear anxious to reveal the whole truth anytime soon.
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
784 reviews562 followers
April 4, 2017
I have to be honest & say that Pauline Parker & Juliet Hulme must have been two of the most arrogant, conceited, affected & straight out unlikeable teenagers ever to walk on this planet. Juliet Hulme did also have equally unlikeable (&, in the case of her father, uncaring) parents & Pauline's father appears to have been very distant with his children. It is certainly ironic that the only parent who made any attempt to actually parent was seen as the obstacle in the way of Juliet & Pauline's naive dreams of Hollywood stardom.

So they decided to kill her.

Honorah Rieper (as she was known when alive - after her death it was discovered that she & Bert Rieper had never married) died a horrible, brutal death. Both girls took part in the killing with extreme enthusiasm (in spite of Hulme's later self serving denials) & still appeared to think they were "so brilliantly clever" even after their arrests. They were both found sane enough to stand trial, convicted & served 5 years in prison.

After their release (from separate prisons) they changed their names (in Hulme's case twice) & disappeared. Proving that truth can be stranger than fiction Hulme became successful murder mystery writer Anne Perry. Being "outed" may have even helped her career. Parker is believed to have been remorseful in later years, but has never agreed to be interviewed.

A fascinating story, but it is let down in the 2011 Awa Press edition by typos, missing commas & repeated words. A shame as Graham writes well - he just needed a better proof reader.

Another fault is Graham repeats the rumour that Hilda Hulme had their gardener destroy Juliet's diary. It is a reasonable assumption that Juliet kept a journal - Pauline did & Graham quotes extensively from it - but there is no proof!

A book that will give me nightmares for days to come!
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,358 reviews454 followers
March 3, 2015
During my teens and twenties I read quite a bit of crime, both fictional and non-. Eventually I dropped the true crime because it was just depressing. Real crime isn't clever, motives are frankly stupid, and the criminals are largely just blundering about. That's all true here. Certainly there was premeditation, but the planning wasn't terribly rigorous. Two teen girls who loved each other didn't want to be separated, so they killed the mother they blamed for not letting the be together. They were arrested, charged, and convicted. Five years later they were each released, changed their names, and went on to lead apparently blameless lives. Admittedly, one seemed to feel guilty and try to make it up to society, the other came up with numerous "it wasn't my fault" sorts of excuses, but both of them largely eschewed the world.

So, what? Well, I spent a lot of time pondering the fact that we recognize specific mental illnesses as a mitigating factor, but not this. But surely the belief that some half-cocked plan (for murder or kidnapping or robbery or whatever) that this mess could possibly work, surely that is itself a troubling symptom of something? I don't even know what, but something is manifestly wrong. When a man allegedly shoots his three neighbors over a "parking dispute" don't most people hear that news and think "he's crazy"? Not schizophrenic, or any real diagnosis that can be found in the DSMV, but we realize that this is just fundamentally wrong. I wonder what that is.

The other thing I thought about is, is what is the appropriate penalty? Obviously the girls wouldn't have been helped by an indefinite sentence in a mental institution; neither had anything wrong with them, except that they did this heinous thing. And although we tend to talk in the US about murder as a crime requiring the death penalty or a life sentence, I'm not sure why. What possible use is that, to anyone? Five years seems like a very short time for a murder, but clearly it was enough time to teach them both not to do it again, if they ever would have considered otherwise, which, probably they wouldn't, because most people who commit murder once don't ever do it again. Maybe five years was just enough time for their brains to grow past an impulsive phase. Maybe arrest and trial and jail were ghastly enough to teach a lesson. I don't know why the sentence was sufficient, but it was.

I'm not clear what, if any, probation restraints they might have been under, but because they were both released under new identities, they effectively got to complete their educations while in jail and then move on to new lives without any past. That's rather counter to the current notion, where someone has to acknowledge a felony conviction on everything for the rest of their life, and, should they forget, a background check will bring it up. Knee-jerk reaction is horror that a murderer should be able to get a job teaching disabled children, as one of them did, although I can't think of a reason why she shouldn't.

I guess what makes the book so fascinating to me is that because one of the two girls became famous, and the case itself always was, we've got a really surprising amount of knowledge about the aftermath. One doesn't often hear about what happens after the trial, even in well-publicized cases. It's dreadful: really, not only were the two families pretty much destroyed, but their were repercussions for everyone in the prosecution and defense as well.

Conclusion: a stupid crime by inept criminals that is every bit as depressing as most, but which has left me wondering about what punishment fits the crime. I feel in my gut that there has to be some punishment, otherwise they'd have gone on killing anyone who got in their way ever, but that's not very likely. I'm unsettled by the whole thing.

Library copy
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,037 followers
December 7, 2015
I read this as part of my New Zealand November reading project in 2015. I rediscovered the title when interviewing two women from my in-person book club, and they were talking about how they use the nominations list as a to-read list, often reading books that weren't voted into one of the nine selections for the year. They both mentioned this one as a title they wish we had as a pick! And perhaps the only one we ever came close to set in New Zealand.

This is a journalistic account of two girls, Juliet and Pauline, who are convicted of brutally murdering Pauline's mother in a New Zealand park in 1954. The author goes into deep detail about the girls and their childhoods, but also the parents and their background, the war, the neighbors, the school systems, the attorneys, even the police. For me it was often too much detail, and I felt like the author was trying hard to make this into a book-length story. It might be more interesting to watch Peter Jackson's film "Heavenly Creatures," which is based on this story and also well-researched. Even in the trailer I heard bits of Pauline's journal that I know from this book.

Another issue I had was that it seemed the author was trying to interpret the actions of the girls through what we know now about psychology, mental illness, etc. But goodness, from previous books I've read from New Zealand, ideas on how to treat people with any sort of mental differences in the 1950s was incredibly minimal. I also think psychology is intended as a lens, not as facts. (At one point he says something about how the girls got rid of their superegos and my response was to think that we explain people through id/ego/superego but it's not like something we can identify.. rather like a journalist identifying the moment a person lost their soul! Ha.)

It was interesting in the tabloid sense, and I'm not surprised that this was international news at the time, but I don't particularly enjoy trips through such disturbing content. Exploring it doesn't explain anything about human nature to me, except to point out that children need loving childhoods with parents who don't just ship them off to Barbados.

ETA: I saw the movie "Heavenly Creatures," which is currently on Netflix streaming in the USA, and thought it was more than enough of this story. It had the same interesting bits this book does, although it seems to put more blame on one girl than the other. It's Kate Winslet's film debut!
Profile Image for Vanessa Meachen.
28 reviews5 followers
December 21, 2011
This was fascinating and compelling. I was surprised at first that there had never been a full-length book devoted to the Parker-Hulme case (apart from Parker-Hulme: A Lesbian View), and then I realised that if there was one I would already have it :) Peter Graham has done a wonderful job of examining this case from many perspectives and of examining all the different treatments of the story from newspaper coverage of the day up to 'Heavenly Creatures'.

One of the things I most appreciated was Graham's investigation of the families of both girls and the circumstances of their childhoods, and in particular his attempt to give a more rounded picture of Honorah Rieper/Parker, who was the victim in this murder and yet tends to be incomplete. I don't believe I've ever seen a photograph of her, and she's always eclipsed by the more glamorous and salacious details of the Hulme family. Most commentaries on the case talk about Christchurch in the 1950s but few go further back to look at the circumstances of their parents' lives.

One of the things that struck me most is that neither girl appears to have received any proper therapy or treatment while in prison, which of course wouldn't be the case today. Stories about their lives while incarcerated are scarce and it would be interesting to know how they reacted to being separated - particularly since the idea of separation was one of the main motives for murder.

Of course, one of the most titillating aspects of this case is that Juliet Hulme transformed herself into Anne Perry the writer and gained fame and fortune in the way she seems to have dreamed about early on. The author clearly dislikes Hulme/Perry and it's difficult not to share his distaste, especially given her recent attempts to minimise her own part in the murder. Fame doesn't appear to have brought her happiness though.

I doubt this murder could happen in quite the same way today (although of course children do still murder their parents and vice versa). Perhaps in a less inhibited world with more outlets for imagination, the girls would have been less dependent on each other and their energies could have been dissipated differently. It's interesting to note that both women have turned to religion and become very devout in their later lives. Perhaps they both needed something to devote themselves to, and in 1950s Christchurch all they could find was one another.

Altogether a great read. True crime writing is always best when it includes context and Peter Graham does a great job of it here.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,208 reviews547 followers
January 3, 2014
Difficult read. I felt that I was back doing case study work for the MS in Psychology for Counseling- or at least deep in clinical related eval testing. And I also came on this book (Kindle)completely cold turkey. Never realizing at all that the author I have read repeatedly (Anne Perry) had this kind of thing in her past.

This book is deep and very dark. I would not recommend it to many who read for pleasure. It was not entertaining. And it went beyond that to becoming a depressant, with some visceral loathing in keen display, to me. It includes the highly sourced and annotated record of a case of matricide in New Zealand's Christchurch during the 1950's. The entire first half is the day to day, week to week, month to month stories of each girl, who together committed this violent murder, from their births to the point when they were just under 16- both of them. And of their families and especially their 4 parents' detailed histories. Down to dates and letters and legal papers- in great minutiae. There was sickness involved in both cases. Lung/tb for Julie, and leg infection that was life threatening for Pauline. Different social classes, but tons of instability and movement in location too- and for Julie, especially.

These girls developed a connection that included their own language invention (just for them)and numerous fantasy worlds of role play. So that they renamed themselves repeatedly. So often you needed to read and reread to know who HIM is or Deborah or Gina or Yvonne. They formed what is called in some past used jargon a "folie a deux". The second half includes the trial and all involved in it, the aftermath for all primary associated people. And especially highlights long sections of psychiatric evaluation testimony. Sometimes conflicting, but including 4 doctors and a plethora of other witnesses and authorities in the girls' lives. Paranoiac exaltation between two fused personalities growing each others' mania?

Knowing nothing of the aftermath, I was shocked. Really SHOCKED, to discover the length of the prison sentences that they served. And also that the Maori explanation upon the tabu forces that the girls had empowered and fulfilled were included too. This author was diligent in covering ALL the bases possible for explanations. He accomplished a nearly impossible task in just the definitive nature of his prose for this work- let alone the research sourcing.

To get the gist of this history in this simplistic review, it is difficult to use the language needed to do so. It is not PC and allowed any more to evaluate as was used during the trial, for instance. But this is not a tale of homosexual behavior or relationship as so depicted in the various trailers. Nor possibly in the movie made in 1994 (which I had no idea existed before seeing the download of this book and have not seen yet). Nor is the 170 IQ rating applicable to some of the assumptions made from that testing, as it was assumed during that trial's era.

Ironically, looking back to just about 2 years ago- I read one of the Pitt series by Anne Perry and remember vividly stopping and rereading a part over and over again. It encompassed the married couple (detectives) interviewing a pair of street women (prostitutes in the story). How those two prostitutes were drawn and described and how Thomas "understood" their explanation about how a violent death was "right and needed". It was not in those simple words. But it was really, really "off" to me in emotion and in cognition. And I had no idea at the time why. Now I do.
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,205 reviews133 followers
May 10, 2013
I had such high hopes for this book, but sadly, it’s kind of a mess. I have required reading to do & I moved this ahead of that and - well, it was a mistake. I’m wondering, has anyone that I know seen the movie Heavenly Creatures? I’ve asked my co-workers, my husband, my doctor, & a not-too-hip table of people at the bar & gotten a resounding No from everyone. I’ve seen it possibly thirty-eight times. I’ve seen it enough times that as I read this I heard each diary entry quoted in Melanie Lynskey’s voice. “We have now learned the peace of the thing called Bliss, the joy of the thing called Sin.” I’ve got a hankering to see it again right now. Unfortunately, if you have seen the movie, this book probably won’t do a whole lot for you. Graham spends more time running down Hilda Hulme’s ancestors & how prosecutor Alan Brown was a big drunk than he does adding new information about the lives of Juliet & Pauline. Beyond learning that Anne Perry is a bit of a weirdo & Hilary Nathan doesn’t want anyone bothering her these days (surprise?), there’s not a lot here. Go to the library & put the movie on hold instead. You can have the copy I just checked out when I’m done with it.
Profile Image for Sweetp-1.
426 reviews16 followers
August 19, 2012
The brutal murder, in 1954, of Honorah Parker by two teenage girls - one of whom was her daughter - shocked the world. Although the story has been immortalized in Peter Jackson's film "Heavenly Creatures", there are few books on the subject. In this volume, Peter Graham covers the girls early years, the obsessive relationship that grew from their meeting at CGHS, and the events leading up to the murder, their trial and incarceration.

It is a fascinating and sad case. I hadn't realised how Juliet's childhood and lack of maternal bonding might have affected her mental health, or to quite what extent the girls delusions had reached prior to committing the murder. At times it is almost hard to imagine how removed from the real world both girls must have been - a chapter on modern psychology helps to shed some light on the question that haunts the book - "but why?".

Graham does a good job pulling together research and recreating 1950s Christchurch. My only gripe with the book is a bias towards the Hulme family. Whilst I can understand that the historical record, such as it is, will have more information relating to the wealthier, more influential Hulme family - (the type of family to have their photograph in the paper for instance)it did seem to me that the Reiper/Parker family was sidelined a little. There is not a single photograph of Honorah Parker (and yes, perhaps there simply wasnt any), and while the epilogue summarises the fates of the lawyers involved and both Mrs and Dr Hulme - the same cannot be said of Pauline's father or sisters. Likewise, in real life, Juliet (now known as Anne Perry) is a successful author of murder mystery crime novels - the book features a lovely publicity shot. In contrast Hillary Nathan (formally Pauline Parker) lives a solitary quiet life and the only photo is a fuzzy half obscured headshot. In a way the book's continual focus on Juliet Hulme, the bizarre behaviours of her family and the success of Anne Perry is a fitting echo of the lives of the girls - beautiful Juliet with all the grand ideas always in the limelight, and Pauline in the shadows.

A fascinating read.

Profile Image for Zain.
1,322 reviews127 followers
June 7, 2021

I was flabbergasted! It’s the only word I can think of to describe how l felt
reading about the childhood of a beloved author. I can never read another Anne Perry mystery again, without thinking about her murderous childhood!

And the book cover says it all. There’s the daughter of the murderer, looking like someone has done something to her! And then, there’s Anne Perry, looking like she haven’t a care in the world.
Profile Image for Sam Sattler.
967 reviews40 followers
February 6, 2017
Because in 1994 Anne Perry’s books were not yet selling in the numbers they soon would sell, many of her current fans (if they were old enough even to have heard about it at the time) missed the big announcement that year about the author’s true identity. Some forty years after having been convicted of one of the more infamous murders in the history of New Zealand, a New Zealand journalist revealed that Anne Perry is none other than convicted murderer Juliet Hulme – the same Juliet Hulme who in 1954, as a teen, helped Pauline Parker, her best friend, beat the girl’s mother to death with half a brick that Juliet brought from home for that specific purpose. Peter Graham’s Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century is a meticulously researched account of events leading up to the murder, the murder itself, the trial that followed, and what happened to the key players in those events once the two killers had been released from prison to go their separate ways.

Juliet Hulme, daughter of a prominent English couple, came to New Zealand as a young girl when her father was recruited for a university position in Christchurch. Her lack of social skills did not stop the physically striking Juliet from making an impression on her classmates, albeit it, for the most part, a negative impression. Pauline Parker, on the other hand, was blessed neither with physical attractiveness, nor with any social skills of which to speak. The angry and socially inept Pauline wanted badly to find a soul-mate to whom she could reveal her thoughts and dreams, and Juliet wanted just as badly to find someone she could recreate in her own image. The two girls were made for each other because each of them got their wish.

Pauline Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper, did not die an easy death. Barely aware of what was happening to her, the woman nonetheless valiantly attempted to fight off her attackers, and it was only when Juliet held her down by the throat that Pauline was finally able to finish off her mother. There was never any doubt as to whom the woman’s murderers were, but the defiantly gleeful manner in which the two teens confessed to what they had done still managed to shock and surprise the country.

Five and one-half years later, after the two young women were released from prison, they assumed new names and began the new lives far from Christchurch, that they hoped would shield them from further notoriety. And it worked for forty years.

There is a lot of material out there, including one major movie (Heavenly Creatures), a documentary made inside Anne Perry’s Scotland home (Interiors), and several books that attempt to explain how two fifteen-year-old girls could so callously murder the mother of one of them. In Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, Peter Graham explores each possibility, one by one, reaching his own conclusion that the strong homosexual ties between the two girls, compounded by a perfect meshing of two distinct personality disorders, created exactly the perfect storm needed to make such a thing possible.

Perhaps most shocking today, is how differently the two women have responded to what they did in 1954. On the one hand, Paulette Parker has lived a life of repentance and appears still to be much bothered by what she did to her mother. On the other, Juliet Hulme (Anne Perry) still shows no remorse whatsoever and has constructed a version of the events that she uses to explain why she had no other choice but to help her friend commit matricide. As Graham notes, Perry’s version of what led up to the murder is so obviously false that it cannot be taken seriously. Anne Perry appears to be much the same person that she was in 1954.

When asked if she ever thinks of the woman she and Paulette murdered, this writer who has made a fine living for herself writing bloody murder mysteries for the last four decades said this:

“No. She was somebody I barely knew.”

And yet, as late as 2006 according to Peter Graham, Anne Perry and her publisher were known to grant interviews about the murder just prior to the publication of a new Anne Perry book, under the theory, I suppose, that “no publicity is bad publicity.”

To this point, they seem to be correct about that.
Profile Image for Dianne.
228 reviews41 followers
March 28, 2018
Written by a New Zealand lawyer who was a child at the time of the most famous murder trial in New Zealand’s history, this is a thorough examination of the case from all perspectives. The premeditated murder of a woman by her 16 year old daughter and the daughter’s 15 year old friend is shocking to learn about. To be able to analyze a murder many decades after it occurred makes for a very interesting history of how the lives of the families involved were affected. Several historical fiction books have been written and a famous movie titled Heavenly Creatures staring Kate Winslet produced by Prince Edward of England brought the court case to the attention of people around the globe. If you enjoy reading about court cases you will find this book worth the time.
Profile Image for fleegan.
266 reviews28 followers
June 28, 2013
This true crime book is excellent. First of all, the story is compelling.
Secondly, this book is the perfect length, and the chapters are short enough that if you just want to read for a little while you’re not going to get bogged down in a long chapter.

Lastly, The writing is crisp and to the point. Mr. Graham deftly writes about the Hulme/Parker murder case where two fifteen year-old girls commit matricide. And if that doesn’t sound odd enough, the author includes many sections of Pauline Parker’s insane journal entries. It makes for some truly bazoo reading. It’s a page-turner, I promise, this book had me yelling, “WHAT?” about every three pages.

This is a pretty famous murder, made famous by Peter Jackson’s movie version, Heavenly Creatures, and by the fact that Juliet Hulme, one of the murderers, grows up to be the famous murder/mystery author, Anne Perry.


I know!

The author sucks you in right away with the murder. Then he goes back and introduces the girls. And usually the bio part of true crime book are boring and dry, but Mr. Graham hits the high points and makes the biographies of the girls quick and interesting.

The hardest part of the book to read is, of course, the murder. It is brutal. The court parts are a little heavy, especially with all of the psychoanalysis of the 1950s, but I promise this book just flies along.

There were two things that sort of made for some difficult reading and the first is that since the author is from New Zealand, sometimes there were words or phrases that I was unfamiliar with, but there’s nothing that couldn’t be figured out within the context. The second thing that made parts difficult to understand was the fact that the girls had SO MANY NAMES. First they have their real names, and then they gave each other nicknames. THEN they have nicknames for others as well. PLUS, it turns out Pauline’s parents were never married so they give her her mother’s maiden name. Then when they get out of prison they change their names. So what can you do, the book is filled with names; can’t be helped.

I have been recommending this book to EVERYONE at work. It’s short, interesting, and tells a crazy story that will stick in your mind for weeks after you read it.
Profile Image for Bernadette Calonego.
Author 13 books94 followers
July 31, 2013
First I was not tempted to read this book because years ago, I had seen the movie "Heavenly Creatures" by director Peter Jackson about this famous matricide by two 15-year old girls in New Zealand in 1954. But then I decided to read it and I don`t regret it. This is true-crime at its finest.

The book resonated with me - and still does - long after I had put it down. I think it is a great advantage that the author is from New Zealand himself. He was able to put some myths straight (i.e. some inaccurate "memories" from author Fay Weldon who wrote about the school the two girls attended but Weldon had left New Zealand several years before the murder happened and she had never returned to New Zealand again).

The most intriguing question is why do two teenage girls murder the mother of one of them? They had difficult childhoods, for sure. But so many people have and they don`t murder their mothers.
Author Peter Graham shows convincingly that it is not just one aspect that is responsible for it but an explosive mixture of events, personal flaws, circumstances, narcissim, conceit, loss of the sense of reality, evil, egotism, teenage rage, trauma by war and early illness a.s.o.

The fact that successful mystery novel author Anne Perry was one of the girls adds to the interest in the book. I watched interviews with Perry on the internet and found them very odd, to say the least. But very fitting to what Peter Graham writes about her in his book.

Profile Image for Helen.
2,513 reviews53 followers
March 20, 2018
This was a thorough treatment of the New Zealand murder of a girl's mother by the girl and her friend, in 1954. I enjoyed the description of the events preceding the murder, about the murder, and the events afterward. The sections in the beginning which described both families for three generations were unnecessary, for me. Recommended for those who enjoy true crime books and/or detailed psychological descriptions of teens with personality disorders and/or psychosis.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,599 reviews599 followers
June 30, 2014
Over the years, I have lost count of the number of true crime books I have read about the murder, or crime, ‘of the century’. However, as murders go, this is certainly a fascinating account of a crime which not only caught the imagination of the public, but which involved Anne Perry; who later became an extremely successful author of historical crime mysteries. In June, 1954, two young friends – Juliet Hulme (later Anne Perry) and Pauline Parker – killed Pauline’s mother in a brutal atttack. It remains New Zealand’s most famous crime and has spawned a film, “Heavenly Creatures,” a play and books written about the events. This is a factual account, which attempts to take the reader through what happened; from the girls childhoods, their friendship, the crime, trial and aftermath.

Juliet Hulme was attractive, intelligent and confident. The daughter of Dr Henry Hulme, Rector of Canterbury University College, and Hilda Hulme; described as both an asset to her husband’s career and also as cold and distant. Juliet’s childhood was certainly disrupted by war and separation from her mother due to illness. She resented her younger brother and was difficult and troublesome, while her mother’s attention was distracted when she embarked on an affair with a man named Bill Perry. Everyone seemed surprised when Juliet befriended Pauline Parker at school. Juliet came from a far more wealthy and successful family and, and as well as class differences, Pauline was much less pretty – described as stocky, sarcastic and even ‘creepy.’ Still, it was a friendship which blossomed despite, or perhaps because of, parental worries about the closeness of the girls on both sides. It would also result in tragedy, when the pair planned and carried out a terrible crime, for which they seemed to feel no guilt or remorse at the time.

The author asks why the girls carried out the crime, discusses what happened and examines the closeness of the girls. This is a disturbing read and the girls seemed to live very much a fantasy life and were both difficult and out of control. Although the author does present all the relevant information – from family background, examination of what happened, the trial and aftermath, I did have some issues with the text. I felt the book could have benefited from editing; oddly really, as this is another edition of a previously published book (although this is the first time I have read it, so I do not know how, or if, it has been improved). I felt there were too many digressions - for example, film plots recounted in detail, which may have inspired the girls fantasies. Also, the text jumps about sometimes. There is, near the beginning of the book, for example, mention of a sister of Pauline’s – Rosemary – who does not live with the family. Although you grasp there is a reason why that is so, the family history is not explained until later. So, the author assumes you have knowledge about certain characters, which is not readily apparent, as he jumps from the crime itself and then goes back to the background of the girls. However, overall, it is a good retelling of what happened, with lots of detail and this follows events to the girls life in later years and the public discovery of author Anne Perry’s past.

What happened in 1954 was a tragedy, which affected many lives and it is impossible to make light of the repercussions. Not only did Honorah Parker lose her life, but her husband lost his wife and his daughters their mother. The families of both girls were damaged by what happened and there was immense press scrutiny. However, the author is always fair to all the people involved; including Hilda Hulme, who was judged very harshly at the time. This really is a very interesting book, made more so if you enjoy the books of Anne Perry. It works well as a true crime book in its own right and hardly needs the notoriety of a famous author, as what happened is still shocking, so many years later.

Rated 3.5
Profile Image for ♥ Marlene♥ .
1,687 reviews130 followers
January 12, 2016
Have read nearly half and so far I find it quite interesting.

So happy after the killing.

Nine months before the murder Pauline not happy on this class photo.

"Both sets of eyes, though different far, hold many mysteries strange.
Impassively they watch the race of man decay and change.
Hatred burning bright in the brown eyes, with enemies for fuel,
Icy scorn glitters in the grey eyes, contemptuous and cruel."

Quote of Pauline Parker written in her diary

Finished yesterday January 10 and I thought it was a very interesting case.
It shocked me to find out one of the girls is an author of crime novels and is still lying about her involvement. Or not still because back then she was proud of it.

Anyway. I thought it a good book although sometimes quite tedious to read because the author added a bit too much information.Glad I read this because I had never heard about this case.
Years ago I did watch the movie Heavenly Creatures and remembered I really liked watching it and the movie was based on these 2 girls so I am going to watch this movie again.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,054 reviews5 followers
August 8, 2015
Wow. Who knew Anne Perry was a semi-delusional narcissist? No wonder she's a bestselling mystery author.

If you haven't seen Peter Jackson's movie "Heavenly Creatures", this crime may be new to you. But in 1954, two teen girls in New Zealand - Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker - murdered Pauline's mother by hitting her repeatedly over the head with a brick.

I had seen the movie, but didn't realize until I saw the title of this book that Juliet Hulme became Anne Perry.

The book appears to be well-documented and much of the information in it is drawn from letters, Pauline's diary, and the court transcript of the trial.

It's a chilling, odd case. I'm normally not a true crime reader - I prefer my crime to be fictional - but Anne Perry's name drew me in.

What really surprised me, is how much Perry's story has changed from what she initially stated during the psych interviews for the trial . . . the author paints her as a unchanged narcissist.

If you're a true crime reader or Anne Perry reader, you may find this interesting. I certainly couldn't stop turning the pages.

*language, sexual conversations, violence
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,920 reviews716 followers
June 19, 2017
A long time ago, I watched Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures for the first time and found myself captivated by the murder that inspired the film; since then I've watched it a number of times and just recently discovered the uncut version which I watched during a week when my husband was away on business. I'm not really a major true crime person, but there are some cases, like this one, that stick in the mind. This case took place in the early 1950s in New Zealand, where, as the author tells us, "murder of any kind was a major event," and that at that time, there were maybe two, three murders a year. He also says that Women who killed were rarities" and "As for teenage girls, matricide -- it was unheard of."

Lately my interest was reopened after reading Beryl Bainbridge's fictional take on the case, Harriet Said... (1972), which changed the story but was most certainly loosely based on the Parker-Hulme case of 1954. Then, one insomniac night a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on a documentary about the case, which made me want to watch Heavenly Creatures again, which then made me look for a true account of the murder, which led me to this book. I will say that as long as Graham sticks to the subject at hand, it's a book worth reading; it's when he goes off on tangents of details that I could have cared less about that I found myself tuning out.

Graham starts his story in the hours leading up to the actual murder itself, stopping at the point just before poor Honorah Parker's head is bashed in by a brick at Victoria Park in Christchurch. Honorah Parker (known as Rieper at the time), her daughter Paulette, and Paulette's friend Juliet Hulme had just finished having tea at a tearoom before venturing off down the "east side bush track"; later the woman who served them, Agnes Ritchie, would say that the girls were polite and that there was "Nothing out of the ordinary." Some 30 or so minutes later, Mrs. Ritchie was shocked to see the girls again, this time

"breathless, greatly agitated, with bloody hands and clothing. One girl's face with spattered with blood and the other's finely speckled."

She then learned that there'd been some sort of terrible accident and that the woman who'd been with them not too long before was now "covered with blood" somewhere "Down in the bushes -- down the track," according to the girls, having slipped on some rocks. Mr. Ritchie and his assistant went to find the woman but obviously it was too late when they arrived, since Honorah was dead. While the girls had called it an accident, Ritchie realized that there were "no rocks anywhere near," and not too far from her head lay a "half-brick with blood and bits of hair on it." The girls were taken to Juliet's home while police examined the scene; the investigators soon knew that this was no accident, but that "the deceased had been attacked with an animal ferocity seldom seen in the most brutal murders." What was worse, however, was that they also realized that "this savagery was the work of two teenage girls," a "thought too shocking for words."

After this beginning, which actually mirrors that of Heavenly Creatures, Graham goes on to examine the lives of the two girls, both separately and together, in order to come to a conclusion as to why Pauline's mother had to die that day. While I leave his findings for readers to discover, using a number of different sources, most pointedly Pauline's own diary, he paints a chilling picture as to what may have led up to that particular moment; he also goes on to look at the aftermath of the crime and its effects on the girls, the families, on the people in Christchurch, and its interest as the "murder of the century" that would later lead to plays, books, and a movie.

While he's focusing on all of the above, the book is captivating and hard to put down, and there are great photos in this book that help bring it to life. But I started finding my interest waning here and there as he throws in superfluous details that I could have cared less about (for example, the athletic prowess of the Hulmes' attorney's at his high school and then Cambridge, or the Hulmes' psychiatrist's wife's love of theater etc., etc., and more unnecessary stuff including what people were eating for lunch on a certain day), and it became a skimathon waiting to get back to the meat of the story. Another thing: this book could have ended some 50-something pages earlier which would have, I think, made it a stronger piece of writing; my final niggle is that there are no footnotes. Sources are listed in the back, but there are several spots where quotations are left unattributed and it drove me nuts. I know -- nerdiferous people such as myself are probably the only people who appreciate footnotes, but to me they're important and should be included in investigative pieces.

My biggest issue here is that I was not at all impressed with the change of title of this book, and in fact thought it a sort of cheap, exploitative publishers' trick. When originally published in 2011, it was called So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the Murder that Shocked the World which actually reflects what happens here; when it came to the US it became Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, which sort of bypasses the fact that there were two girls involved. It's also highly misleading: we don't discover the modern-day of Juliet Hulme as Anne Perry until very late in the book, at which point we also discover the post-prison identity (Hilary Nathan) of Pauline Parker. But where's Hilary Nathan in the title? Obviously the title change was done to sell more copies of this book since there are thousands of Anne Perry fans out there; personally speaking, I think it's a cheap tactic.

Having said all of that, while on topic it is a book I'd recommend for anyone with an interest in the case who wants to know more about it -- Graham has done a pretty thorough job here that will answer pretty much any question someone might want answered. It's actually one of the most chilling true-crime stories I've read.
Profile Image for Cleopatra  Pullen.
1,350 reviews299 followers
March 19, 2017
New Zealand on a fine wintery day in June 1954 a woman, her daughter and her daughter’s best friend took a walk in nearby Victoria Park. The little group stopped at a tea kiosk for refreshments and then walked further into the park. The next thing Agnes Richie, owner of the tea kiosk knew was that the two girls turned up screaming that Pauline’s mother Mrs Rieper had fallen, and there was lots of blood. There was no fall, Mrs Rieper had been bludgeoned to death by the two fifteen year old girls.

Peter Graham takes a forensic look at the circumstances that led up to the killing of Mrs Rieper, soon to be known as Honorah Parker, in the newspapers, because if the indignity of being the victim of matricide wasn’t enough, Bill, Pauline’s father had to disclose that the couple had never married despite having had four children together. The natural place to start is the friendship between the wealthy Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, especially as the rumours were that the two girls were in a lesbian relationship and the author takes us through a comprehensive look at the facts, mainly supplied by Pauline’s diary but supplemented by the stories the two girls wrote and a few comments from contemporaries. He doesn’t leave it there the circumstances of both families are examined with microscopic detail to look for clues on where the seeds were sown for such an unnatural crime. Indeed rates of matricide, a fairly rare crime in itself, but when split by gender exceptionally so. Indeed those who commit this particular crime tend to be adult women living with elderly mothers, not teenage girls.

The book is fascinating, it starts with the scene of the crime and then looks backwards into the family details before moving onto the questioning of the girls and their eventual trial. If anything a lot of the details about Henry’s work as a scientist seemed a little superfluous but if nothing else it gave context, and indeed contrast, between the lives the two girls lived. The author tries, and in my opinion fails, to come up with an underlying mental illness for either girl, but as in the examination of their family set-ups, he doesn’t ever impose his views, rather gives the facts and lets the reader come to their own conclusion.

The big difference in this account is that we know what happens after the trial, after the two girls were released mainly because one of them became a famous author, of crime fiction. Her identity was discovered when in 1994 Peter Jackson directed the film Heavenly Creatures about this crime, then thirty years after the event. Anne Perry was alive and well, living in Scotland having succeeded in becoming a successful author. It is hard to put out of your mind the stories to the two friends wrote together, heavily inspired by the films they watched and their fertile imaginations. Pauline Parker was also tracked down by keen journalists, she also no longer lived in New Zealand but had settled in England under a new name.

This was a fascinating read although it is often the truth that as much as we want to, we learn little from murderers through true crime. The two girls in this instance, hatched a plan without any idea of what killing someone really entailed and as a result were quickly caught. Their plans to go to America and meet the film stars and become writers, didn’t come true… but for one of them it almost did.

I chose to read this book when I learned that Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge was inspired by this crime which was front page news around the world at the time. I thought that I would follow up with a book by Anne Perry herself, but to be honest I don’t have the stomach for that at the moment, but I have bought a copy of Heavenly Creatures to watch.
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,283 reviews217 followers
August 18, 2022
I've been fascinated by the murder of Honorah Parker since seeing the movie Heavenly Creatures (Kate Winslet's debut) in which her teenage daughter Pauline and best friend Juliet (possibly lesbian lover) bludgeoned Honorah with a brick in a stocking. I highly recommend the movie. The grizzly murder happened in New Zealand in 1954.

After serving under six years the girls were given new identities. Upon the movie's release, Juliet was discovered to be best selling crime writer Anne Perry.

The murders and the psychopathology behind ANNE PERRY AND THR MURDER OF THE CENTURY are so much more interesting than this very dry book, filled with too many irrelevant details. Psychological assessment was in its infancy during the 1950s and at the time homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Three prosecution and two defense psychiatrists debated whether these two mentally ill teens were insane at the time of the murders, and even considered whether this was a case of folie a deux (shared psychosis). Most interesting is the chapter looking at the girls from today's psychological perspective of severe personality disorders caused by a disruption in the attachment bonds both girls experienced as children. Much of my doctoral dissertation used Heinz Kohut's theoretical orientation, as did this writer Peter Graham, who did a great job conceptualizing their disorders.

I skimmed a lot of this nonfiction book, and there were nuggets of interesting details, particularly for those interested in mental illness and crime. I recommend watching Heavenly Creatures before reading the book, while fictionalized, the movie is fairly true to actual events.
Profile Image for Carrie.
406 reviews23 followers
August 24, 2013
This book was intense. The murder of Honorah Rieper by her daughter Pauline and Pauline's best friend Juliet Hulme. Taking place in New Zealand in the 50s, the murder rocked the country. How could two seemingly normal girls commit a brutal crime? That question is never really answered. There are many explanations offered, but none seem to truly get to the heart of the matter. So what makes this story so compelling besides the sensational nature of the crime?

Because one of the murderers, Juliet Hulme, grows up to be the author of intensely successful murder mysteries, Anne Perry. As Juliet, she seemed unrepentant for her part in the murder. As Anne, that does not seem to have changed. In her repeated interviews, she offered reason after reason for "why" she took part in the murder, but none of the reasons hold water under close examination.

The other party to the crime, Pauline Rieper spent the rest of her life in seeming isolation, giving every appearance of, if not repentence for her crime, regret for what her actions birthed.

All in all, this story leaves you with a feeling of unease. The fact that Perry goes on to make her living creating new and more violent murders adds to the feeling that something is still just not. quite. right.
Profile Image for Peggy.
32 reviews
May 7, 2013
I have been wanting to read this book for several months, and it finally came out as a Kindle edition. The book was very good, revealed some information about the case that I had not previously seen or read anywhere else. Anyone who has been intrigued by this case as I have been should find it an interesting read. If you want the Kindle edition however the name has been changed to "Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century," and it has been VERY POORLY edited. In fact I don't think there has been any actual editing. Words run together several time on each page, and at one point it took me a few minutes to figure out that the line was supposed to say "We are so brilliantly clever" which is a quote from Pauline's diary. But apparently someone had simply run a word processor find and replace function on the entire book, so the line said "We are Anne Perry and the murder of the century!" I have found kindle books to be poorly edited often before but this one was the worst I have seen so far.
Author 2 books16 followers
December 19, 2012
This is fascinating reading, but a good third of it is unnecessary excess detail on marginal figures in the story. A book would have to work pretty hard to bore me with this particular story, and I was definitely drifting. Three stars for obvious intense research and the story itself.
November 19, 2021
I really was intrigued by this book. That Anne Perry, who has made millions as a Crime Writer actually committed a horrific murder of her friend’s mother seemed so terrible. I had seen the movie Heavenly Creatures years ago, but did not know Anne Perry was actually Juliet Holme. So, for such a violent, devastating, and sensational murder by two young teenage girls one would think to learn a lot about their mindset and lives. This book was not like that. It was actually so bogged down in trite facts~the lawyer wore plaid pants, the mother was above others in her standing and did not enjoy school functions, Juliet’s father was not a good entertainer. The lawyers mannerisms were described, too but it was so dull. I had the audio for this, too and that only made it worse. The narrator sounds like he is reading for the Town Hall News of the Week.

So, there is discussion about the possibility that the girls were lesbians, which may well be true. They both were a bit odd and had been sick when younger and were inseparable once they met. They lived rich fantasy lives and wrote books and made up names and acted out dramatic scenes. Was this pathological or just young teenagers? Unfortunately, the book never answers much. There is much interest about whether the girls were having a sexual relationship, but the book is written as it would be in 1954, with reporting on the thinking at the time and people called to testify. It read like a book written in that time period, not one looking back and examining what drove these 2 girls to do something so horrific. Only in the last 3 chapters were different theories brought up and those were never really explored, possibly Juliet Manic-Depressive, Avoidant, so suffered from narcissism or sociopath tendencies. Pauline seemed different and drawn in by Juliet, yet this read like it was being spoken from after a day in court in 1954. The pressure if gay that one would face would be so severe and Juliet was about to move and could not express her grief was relevant. Yet, it never really discusses much below the surface level on anything.

So, I just did not think this book was well written and actually found it boring. The audio was worse. I have no more insight into these two women then before I read the book. However, I find it deeply disturbing that it was reported that Juliet Holme and Pauline Parker did not seem to show any distress or remorse initially. Both girls had a trial and it was decided neither was insane, but at the time because each was a juvenile received very short jail sentences. It appears Pauline lived quietly and out of the spot light after this. I find it most upsetting that Juliet, appears to never have changed, and of all the professions she could have chosen decided to become a Crime Writer. How was it possible to behave this way? She used a brick and hit the mother over 20 times in the head. The body was hard to identify, yet she decides to write about crimes and murders? This I do have a serious problem with.

When the movie Heavenly Creatures came out, so did her identity and it was used by her and her publicist to promote her latest book. As far as I know this woman is not using her life to help crime victims or donate money to help anyone. She does sound like a psychopath to me. I just could never read one of her books after reading this. She was young and was given a fresh start, but her choices just leave me very upset.

So, wish the book was better and explained each girl to a better degree. I listened with 🎧, too and usually like that, but turned it off the narrator was so bad. It fell short for me, but the overall crime just bothered me terribly and that someone was allowed to make a career out of something so awful is really the worst of it.
Profile Image for J. Bryce.
367 reviews29 followers
May 16, 2013
Most Americans -- indeed, most people of this generation -- probably know this story only from Peter Jackson's early film, Heavenly Creatures (1994), which was not only his break-through film but also that of Kate Winslet. This is the story of the Parker-Hulme murder, in which a pair of New Zealand teenagers killed the mother of one due, probably, to their adolescent infatuation with each other and a certain amount of mental disorder.

The American edition has a more America-friendly title (i.e., like the first Harry Potter book, they thought it necessary to dumb down the title for we colonials): Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, which is overstating it just a little (we 'Mericans know the Murder of the Century was committed by O.J. Simpson, don't we?).

This is the first non-fiction treatment of the subject since 1991, and the first that tells the whole story from the girls' friendship through the murder, the trial, the [SPOILER ALERT] imprisonment and their eventual release, not to mention the girls' lives afterwards. Juliet Hulme became the Victorian mystery author Anne Perry and Pauline Parker became a recluse.

How it all happened is detailed in a swift-moving narrative by lawyer and true-crime write Peter Graham, and is highly recommended for fans of true crime "literature," and of Peter Jackson's movie.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
161 reviews24 followers
July 8, 2013
Anyone who has ever read one my reviews knows that I don’t do “spoilers”. I will however, say that Peter Graham did a fantastic job of making a hotpot of fact and fiction. This “crime of the century” had everything thrown into the hotpot including teenage angst, fantasy, role-playing, questionable sexuality, wealth, poverty, affairs and most importantly a brutal senseless murder.

I finished this book greatly appreciating the author’s willingness to tackle such a troubling chapter in New Zealand’s history. I also finished this book with mixed emotions about the way the whole crime, investigation and subsequent trial were handled. Although both Pauline and Juliet were under the care of “behavior health specialist”, I can’t help but think that the whole torrid tale would have been viewed today by a jury as well as the media very differently. There would have at least been a Facebook page to support the girls! Although both girls served some time in prison, let’s face it. They got away with murder. After serving their time each went on with their lives. One lives a more affluent life as mystery writer Anne Perry. While the other lives under the assumed name of Hilary Nathan. Are they remorseful? Are they happy? Those are questions that only they can answer.
Profile Image for Julie.
595 reviews13 followers
March 16, 2015
This book is an in-depth account of an infamous 1954 murder in Christchurch, New Zealand. Two adolescent girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, murdered Parker's mother, in an attempt to avoid being separated. It was a huge cause célèbre, and the murder and subsequent trial were reported in the press worldwide. Both girls were found guilty (the defense tried to get an innocent verdict on the grounds of insanity) and spent several years in prison before being released and given new identities. Juliet Hulme took the name Anne Perry, and went on to become a well-known mystery writer.

Back in the mid-90s, Peter Jackson made a film about the murder, Heavenly Creatures, which I saw around the time it came out. I found the movie well done, but pretty creepy, but I have to admit that I was fascinated by the case. In a recent episode, Tracie of the 2 Knit Lit Chicks podcast spoke about this book and her review spurred me to read it. The book was very thorough and well-written. Graham quotes extensively from Parker's diary and other writings from both girls. The case is still creepy, but fascinating. Definitely a book worth reading, especially if you are a fan of true crime.
Profile Image for Anthony.
102 reviews10 followers
January 7, 2022
During my teens I was obsessed with Heavenly Creatures before largely forgetting about it for two decades. So when I discovered there was a book I couldn't wait to get stuck in! Whilst much of the detail will be familiar to fans of the film, the sections about their time in prison and life following release were extremely interesting. I find it fascinating that Parker and Hulme, once so close, have gone on to live such contrasting lives. I must admit it sent chills through me to learn about and see pictures of the mural Pauline had most likely painted, so many years later.

My only gripe with this book is that there is too much detail about minor figures. I wasn't particularly interested in the backgrounds of expert witnesses in the trial. I also found a couple of chapters about the early life of both sets of parents a little dull. I would also have been interested to read more extracts from Pauline's diary, if such material is still available. That being said, I wholeheartedly recommend this comprehensive account of a fascinating case.
Profile Image for Debbie.
678 reviews13 followers
June 27, 2012
In staid 1950s New Zealand two teenage girls committed a murder that gained worldwide notoriety and which Peter Jackson would make into the movie Heavenly Creatures in 1994.

Juliet Hulme was the emotionally neglected daughter of well to do British immigrants. Her father Henry was a respected, but odd, scientist who came out to New Zealand to be rector of Canterbury University College.

Pauline Parker was the daughter of Bert and Honorah Rieper who were not well off and took in boarders to make ends meet.

Juliet and Pauline struck up an unlikely friendship at Christchurch Girls' High School. Both of them had suffered illness earlier in life that meant they had to sit out physical education classes. Their friendship developed into a shared obsession with writing about fantasy worlds which began to impinge on reality. They became intensely dependent on each other and there is strong evidence to suggest their friendship developed into a lesbian sexual relationship.

When the time came for Juliet's family to return to England, Juliet and Pauline could not bear the thought of separation. They became convinced that Pauline's mother was the only person stopping Pauline from going with the Hulmes and decided to kill her. They lured Honorah to an isolated park on the pretence of going for a walk and bashed her to death with a brick wrapped in a stocking.

The murder shocked Christchurch and the trial was played out in front of jam-packed public galleries. As if matricide and lesbianism weren't enough to titillate the public, two more salacious tidbits emerged during the trial proceedings.

It was revealed that Juliet's mother Hilda had been having a love affair with Bill Perry who she had moved into the homestead she shared with her husband Henry. Hilda had been blatantly sleeping with Bill right under Henry's nose and Henry had accepted this. Pauline's parents turned out to never have been married. After being viciously murdered, Honorah now had the indignity of having her name changed post mortem to Honorah Parker, and Pauline became Pauline Parker.

Peter Graham has written a incredibly readable and interesting account of this case which continues to fascinate all these years later. The most damning evidence in the trial was Pauline's diary which also provides much of the material for this book. It shows the obsessive, unbalanced mental state of the two girls. It is almost certain that Juliet also kept a diary, but that her parents destroyed it before the police could find it. It is a pity that we cannot see the events directly through Juliet's eyes, but the view we get through Pauline's is sad, chilling and fascinating. Pauline's diary entry on the morning of the murder is headed 'The Day of the Happy Event'.

There was no doubt that the girls committed the murder so the defence could only try and prove that they were not sane at the time. There is no doubt that their thought processes were unhinged, but equally no doubt that they knew that what they were doing was wrong.

Peter Graham sources information from a number of people and places, although not from Juliet and Pauline themselves. On their release from prison both girls left New Zealand for the United Kingdom, although they never had any contact again. The success of Peter Jackson's movie led to the discovery that Juliet was the crime writer Anne Perry, and that Pauline had changed her name to Hilary Nathan and was living in the UK. Peter Graham ends his book by providing follow up information on their lives in present times. He also gives an account of the other people involved in the trial, many of whom ended up having quite tragic lives.

All in all this is a very good book documenting a sensational incident in New Zealand's crime history.

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