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Joe Cinque's Consolation, A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,657 ratings  ·  326 reviews

In October 1997, a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests – most of them university students – had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of Rohypnol and heroi
328 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2004)
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Holly McArthur The apples seem to be a recurring motif throughout this book. Garner first notices the a bowl of Granny Smith apples in the background of the crime sc…moreThe apples seem to be a recurring motif throughout this book. Garner first notices the a bowl of Granny Smith apples in the background of the crime scene photos taken at Antill Street. She is shocked by the contrast of the apple's bright cheeriness against the oppressive bleak atmosphere captured in the rest of the photos.

The apples are given context when it is explained that Rao fetched Joe the apples to satisfy his hunger, as commanded by Singh. Later, a friend recounts to Garner Joe's love of apples and his naive belief that an apple a day would keep him in perfect health.

I think the apple is symbolic of Joe's wholesomeness and ripe potential. The apple also symbolizes his innocence in the belief that he could come to no harm. Imagery of Snow White's poisoned apple is invoked.(less)
Holly McArthur
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

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Start your review of Joe Cinque's Consolation, A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law
“Joe Cinque is dead.”
Vivacious, beautiful Anu Singh tells friends she’s going to commit suicide, claiming her boyfriend (Joe Cinque) hooked her on ipecac (for weight loss), and it has destroyed her body. We think she mentions “taking someone with her” to her best friend. Joe knows nothing of this.

She plans this for a long time, sourcing drugs, researching how to use them, and even getting lessons in to inject heroin.

She invites the friends to her ‘send-off’ dinner party, fails to succeed so
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it

I can remember at the time that this murder happened that it was such a strange case. An attractive Canberra law student Anu Singh killed her boyfriend, Joe Cinque after a dinner party by slipping rohypnol into his coffee and then injecting him with heroin. He was still alive the next day so she injected him a second time with heroin and he eventually died a horrible death.

The strange thing about the case was that Anu Singh had no obvious motive for killing Joe Cinque. She talked to her friends
Diane in Australia
This is the first Helen Garner book I've read, and I'm impressed. She probes deep into the psyche of the judge, the witnesses, and the families. She goes through much soul-searching of her own, and shares pertinent bits with us, which I appreciated. She shows us the human story behind the legal process. She draws us in. I felt I was sitting with her in court, standing by her side as she talks to folks, and allowed to hear her thoughts in the wee hours of the morning when she struggled with the w ...more
☼♄Jülie 

"The first time I saw Joe Cinque among his friends and family, the first time I ever heard his voice, was in the living room of his parents' house in Newcastle, in the winter of 1999.
By then, of course, he had already been dead for nearly two years."

This book published in 2004 is the second book of nonfiction I have read by Helen Garner, the first being This House of Grief which was published in 2014.
Two totally different stories but nonetheless shocking in their telling. Both true stories rel
Olivia-Savannah  Roach
I had a lot of problems with this novel, but ultimately we ended on an okay note? My main problem is that it was incredibly boring - which was absolutely shocking, since the true crime case it is focused on is so scandalous and outrageous. While the crime itself is so shocking and had me wanting to find out what the verdicts would be as soon as I could, the way Garner writes this novel slows all the events down, and makes it an incredibly drag to read.

I also found that for a novel like this, wh
Laura Perriam
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
UHHHHHHH i kind of hated this. 5 stars for readability and the story itself and the concept of looking at the impact of the justice system on victim's families, but NO STARS EVER for incredibly annoying whingey intrusions of garner on the narrative and her lack of impartiality and failure to conduct any research into how criminal sentencing actually works or even *should* work. there was a real opportunity here i think to examine criminal sentencing - which she clearly gets really upset about - ...more
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started this book, but it quickly drew me in to a narrative as compelling as any novel.

I found the structure of the book to be very effective, with the accounts of the court case framed by Garner's own involvement and reflections on the case and the intriguing characters of the people involved. While the legal and ethical reflections could have been dry, the writing style makes them accessible and thought-provoking.

When I requested this book from the l
Bill Kupersmith
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
At one point the author says that men cannot manage high-maintenance friendships; @ least in my own case I’d like to think she’s wrong, tho I’ll grant we males usually have a steeper learning curve. Unfortunately, the victim Joe Cinque (pronounced‘chin-kway’) did not live to graduate from Miss Experience’s School of Hard Knocks, having been rendered helpless by Rohypnol and killed with an injection of heroin administered by his fiancée Anu Singh that she’d procured with the assistance of her BF ...more
Garner's 2004 bestseller is a deep and disquieting investigation of an infamous Australian crime. In October 1997 26-year-old engineer Joe Cinque died in his Canberra townhouse, after being heavily drugged with Rohypnol, then injected with a fatal dose of heroin by his girlfriend, 25-year-old law student Anu Singh. Singh claimed diminished responsibility for the crime and ultimately served less than 4 years in prison for Cinque's manslaughter.
As a former lawyer myself, I found the story perplex
Lyn Elliott
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
At the time that Anu Singh killed her boyfriend, Joe Cinque, I was utterly appalled by the details of her crime. She planned it well in advance, talked about what she was going to do (kill Joe)to friends and went to great lengths to obtain the materials she needed and practiced how to use the syringe with which she injected him with heroin after drugging him with rohypnol.

I have never wanted to read Garner's account which revisits the crime through court transcripts and Garner's interviews with
Gary Daly
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent and powerful book and one of those stories that remind you how money, influence and the passing of time leave victims of violent crimes, in this case murder, lost in the outpouring of sympathy not for the victim but for the perpetrator. The further away in days, months and years that a defendant moves from the sight of the crime the more they are viewed as innocent or at the very least justified in their actions. The trauma of the family of a murder victim is rarely mentioned in a d ...more
Alexandra Daw
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very moving and deeply satisfying. The work is like an ode or hymn in its construction. What an extraordinary story and a worthy tribute. There is so much to ponder and think about here. The title just for entree. The image of the apple on the cover for dessert. All that that symbol means in a man/woman relationship and, if you believe, one's relationship with God. Love. Trust. Knowledge. Deceit. In sickness and in health. Til death us do part. The whole damn thing. And through it all, the narra ...more
Sean Kennedy
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a complex, confusing and heartbreaking look at a crime that should never have happened - simply because there were people who knew it was going to, and did nothing about it. You often put yourself in other peoples' shoes in true crime non-fiction, but I find myself utterly perplexed by the actions of these people. But you also see archetypes evolve as they often do in these cases - the sociopathic narcissist who has people under their spell, and who often rope in a complacent underdog to ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Ok, I read it for a book group. I started this book thinking I wouldn't like it, not being the type of book I would ever read. I have no real interest in books covering true crime/legal/psychological/etc. Through most of this book I was thinking, why exactly am I reading this book (I mean beyond the book group thing). There are people out there who are pretty screwed up and do horrible things, and mostly just seem like people I would want nothing to do with under any circumstance. Why exactly is ...more
J.J. Carroll
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was warned when I borrowed this book that it would depress me. It did, and it made me angry and sad and despairing of the legal system.

I was living in Canberra at the time of the murder (no, sorry it definitely wasn't manslaughter) and at the time of the various trials. I remembering hearing little about it, in fact it wasn't until the book was launched that it really pinged on my radar. And it's taken me this long to read it.

Helen Garner tells a gut wrenching and horrible tale, and as I read
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it

Joe Cinque’s Consolation. A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law is a non-fiction book by award -winning Australian author, Helen Garner. In March 1999, a respected senior journalist suggested to Garner that she write about the murder, in October 1997, of young civil engineer, Joe Cinque. At first reluctant, Garner became intrigued by the case. The bones were this: Cinque’s girlfriend and her best friend had been charged with murdering him by giving him a massive dose of Rohypnol, then in
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was difficult to read because of my absolute identification with the mother of the murdered boy, but I couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know if there would be justice.

In the end, Garner helped me to realise that what I wanted was revenge... (view spoiler)

I'm not sure why I didn'
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
The first 72 pages (parts 1 and 2) failed to grab me at all - it was staccato and infuriatingly self-indulgent. The author came late to the trial of the villain, and just vented from the gallery, while reflecting at length on her personal problems and history. Had the book continued heavily in this vein there would have been no point continuing.

From Part 3 onward, however, it settled into the expected cadence of a piece of investigative journalism. The longer the author was at court, the more e
Michael Burge
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding emotional gauge to the murder of Joe Cinque, and a fitting elegy for a man almost forgotten in the legal debacle which followed. Garner's prescience about the victim becoming secondary to the egos of other major players in this case was spot-on, and her efforts in documenting the human story behind the legal process ranks with John Bryson's Evil Angels: The Case of Lindy Chamberlain. ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haunting. I will carry with me the anguish of Maria and Nino forever. And will find myself shaking my head with the incredulity of “justice “. Helen writes from her heart directly into ours. There is no word or a phrase in this book that it can do without.
Dec 20, 2008 rated it liked it
What is it about Helen Garner that she enjoys writing about misery??
Ellen Shi
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was saying to Maria about friends of mine whose son had committed suicide: how they longed for people to keep talking about him, not to let him disappear from memory… [Nino] said to me, ‘Some people. Their son. Kill himself. Very sad. He choose to die. He decide. But my son. Somebody take his life. For no reason… My son got - no - choice’…
I was afraid to say what I was thinking, which was - ‘At least your son wanted to live. You brought up a son who wanted to live.’ But what difference does t
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruby Noise
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
As awful as this story was, I liked the way Helen Garner approached this tale. She weaved her own feelings and past misdemeanors in among the court room revelations. I have met women like Anu Singh and can totally understand how you can find yourself enmeshed in their web of lies, irrational behavior and control over your own self. What I struggled to understand was how the people that were told that she was going to kill Joe Cinque didn't step up and speak, but then when so many dramatic tales ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
After seeing the film, I knew I had to read the book. This crime was so outrageous, that it almost read like a work of fiction - only, sadly, it wasn't. As a reader, I could not help feel equal amounts of disgust and disbelief as I read on. And a lot of anger and frustration. This book needed to be written and if true crime - specifically Australian true crime - interests you, I would recommend it. I didn't give it a higher rating due to the fact that the author injected too much of herself into ...more
May 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
I've always appreciated Garner's honest and direct style. But this book compounded my reservations about balance that began for me with "The First Stone". I welcome her re-examination of the law's flawed approach to justice and endorse her findings of the legal system's failure to meet the needs of victims. But I am still left feeling as if I've missed seeing the full picture from her deliberately partisan approach. Ironically I don't feel that I know Joe or any of the other main protagonists (e ...more
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was totally gripped by this book. You can really feel the family's grief over the death of their son and their despair and frustration of the court proceedings - also felt deeply by the author (which I felt as well). This was a very well written book by one of Australia's most esteemed authors. Highly recommended.
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
Extraordinary book, and one that had a profound effect on me. I couldn't stop thinking about Joe and his parents for days. I still cannot understand how Anu Singh received such a light sentence for a crime that was pre-meditated.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Trust Helen Garner to express so eloquently exactly how you feel when the scales are not even. I am still, like the author and Joe's family, left with questions.
This was a lot easier to read than I was expecting as I knew nothing about this book. I did find it a bit one sided (hence the title) as neither of the girls involved were interviewed.
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Helen Garner was born in Geelong in 1942. She has published many works of fiction including Monkey Grip, Cosmo Cosmolino and The Children's Bach. Her fiction has won numerous awards. She is also one of Australia's most respected non-fiction writers, and received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993.

Her most recent books are The First Stone, True Stories, My Hard Heart, The Feel of Stone and Joe

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