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Play with knives by Jennifer Maiden

Play with knives

by Jennifer Maiden

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The two main characters of this book, George Jeffreys and Clare Collins, have reappeared many times in Jennifer Maiden's poetry since 2007 or so. Maiden said in an interview with Magdalena Ball on Blog Talk Radio that it's part of the conceit of the George Jeffreys poems that the reader knows these characters from previously, but it doesn't really matter if she/he actually does know them. All the same, if you're interested in those poems the book asks to be read.

If you avoid stories where terrible things are done to women, then stay away from this one. It's a pretend genre piece involving a serial killer in Western Sydney, which reaches a truly nasty and unexpected climax. I say 'pretend genre piece' because the serial killer scenario is secondary to the story of a gossipy, slightly sleazy group of public servants and professionals involved in the release and return to civilian life of teenager Clare Forster/Collins who had killed and mutilated her three younger siblings when she was nine years old. At the heart of this story is Clare's relationship with the narrator, probation officer George Jeffreys.

As I read the conversations between these characters, first as George is determining whether he will recommend Clare's release, and then as he is her mentor while on parole, I was reminded of Gitta Sereny's Cries Unheard, in which Sereny tries to understand the mind of child murderer Mary Bell. The Sereny book was published nine years after this, so it's not a source, and the books have very different angles on the subject of child murderers: Sereny asks how a child could have come to commit such an act; Maiden is interested in what life is like for the perpetrator afterwards – and what it means to be fascinated by such a person.
  shawjonathan | Jan 4, 2013 |
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