04 November 2009

Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly

by Sue Bursztynski, illustrated by Louise Prout

Ford Street. Children's Non-Fiction, Australian. Paperback rrp $16.95

Guest Reviewer - by Anastasia Gonis

People have always been fascinated with true crime. Here is a delicious collection of well-researched, macabre, gruesome and sometimes shocking tales taken from Australia’s darker side of history for lovers of this genre and interested others. The book is aimed at lower to middle years, but readers of all ages will find this compilation riveting.

The entries begin in the 1600s with Jeronimus Cornelisz and his part in the famous Batavia incident and continue through till the most recent Gangland killings, convictions and sentences. The age of the criminals vary. A seven year old boy murders his brothers; a grandmother poisons her family members. The content and scale of each misdemeanour differs, from the why and how of Alexander Pearce’s cannibalistic tendencies, to Matthew Brady’s gentlemanly bushranging talents.

Infamous and lawless lives of both genders are recorded here. Women throughout history chose controversial ways of getting what they wanted, ignoring the cost to themselves and others. The beautiful and infamous Lola Montez visited the Goldfields in 1855 and danced the Spider Dance in her gauze dress for the miners, with an agreement to be paid in gold. Bridget Hurford was the first woman to be hanged in Western Australia. Frances Knorr, the baby farmer, did atrocious things under the guise of caring for poor people’s children. So did John and Sarah Makin who also used their children in their treacherous schemes. Even older women such as grandmother, Caroline Grills, were not exempt from the lure of murderous intent. Her baking was literally to die for. There is also the life and times of Jean Lee, the last woman to be hanged in Australia.

There are over forty-five entries in the book. Each contains detailed information on its subject. The stories are enhanced by the illustrations of the characters in black ink. There are Fact Boxes with fascinating and educational Did You Know?…bits of crime trivia. The book closes with Joe Korp and Tanyia Herman from the mum-in-the-boot murder; the Moran family, and the life story of Tony Mokbel.


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