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The Death of Donna Whalen

by Michael Winter

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373517,009 (3.79)11
In her home on Empire Avenue, Donna Whalen was stabbed 31 times. Her friends, family, and neighbours believed it was her abusive boyfriend, Sheldon Troke. But the evidence is all circumstantial, providing a daunting challenge for police and prosecutors-and the course of justice takes many unpredictable twists and turns before the truth is finally revealed.… (more)
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Two reviews so far: one loved the book, one thought it didn't work. Guess I'm the tie breaker (for now at least): I absolutely loved this book.

Michael Winter has taken a true story, using actual court transcripts, and fictionalized it. The story is told in the third person, but from the testimony of various people involved in the case -- the brutal stabbing of Donna Whelan.

I admit it took me a while to get into the story -- it seemed disjointed and everyone's views are presented as true when obviously these contradictory versions of events cannot all be accurate. There is no back story, no narrator's description of characters' perspectives or motivations. It's as if each character is their own narrator.

Slowly, I was drawn into the story. Not really empathizing with any character very much, but fascinated by the world they inhabited and wanting to solve the case. Portions of the story where forensic evidence is collected and described were chilling in their simple portrayal. I began to feel what it must be like to examine a crime scene and cringed inwardly at how the life of a murder victim can be reduced to the contents of her handbag and a red lego brick on a stairwell. The way Donna's children (Sharon, in particular) are taken from their family and dealt with by the police was similarly made more real by the simple laying out of "facts" from various perspectives. I felt the web of "the system" tighten around the children and their grandparents.

Mr. Winter has taken a unique approach in story telling, and I think he's pulled it off supremely well. ( )
1 vote LynnB | Nov 24, 2011 |
Michael Winter has deliberately blurred the line between fiction and non-fiction in this book, making use of transcripts and testimonies to build a narrative that examines the circumstances surrounding a notorious murder that occurred in St. John's, Nfld, and the subsequent conviction of the man police were convinced committed the crime. The Death of Donna Whalen is described in the publicity blurb as a "work of documentary fiction," and the narrative consists of third-person accounts from the point of view of the various players in this sorry drama. There is no doubt that Winter effectively draws the reader into an unsavoury world filled with criminals, addicts, drunks and liars. But does it make a good novel? Strangely, for a book about a murder, it is often tedious. The reader will find it tough going, trying to locate a coherent story in these sometimes contradictory, occasionally misleading accounts. And because none of the characters--including the victim--attract the reader's sympathy, the book remains emotionally inert. Michael Winter has attempted something different in this book and perhaps can be lauded for sheer audacity. But it's possible readers will be disappointed by the result. Short listed for the 2010 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. ( )
  icolford | Aug 4, 2011 |
I loved this book!

It is the story of a murder in St. John's Newfoundland. Although the names have been changed and some of the characters are amalgamations of several actual people the story is true. It is written in the third person but is made up entirely of transcripts of the investigation and trial.

This is a difficult method of telling a story but Winter's succeeds beautifuly. It is very readable and hard to put down.

I met the author at a book reading and found him to be personable and charming. It's hard to believe he related such a dark tale. ( )
  mamabear54 | Oct 18, 2010 |
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I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken -- Oliver Cromwell
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Ruth was out hanging clothes and Donna come down and started hanging up clothes.
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In her home on Empire Avenue, Donna Whalen was stabbed 31 times. Her friends, family, and neighbours believed it was her abusive boyfriend, Sheldon Troke. But the evidence is all circumstantial, providing a daunting challenge for police and prosecutors-and the course of justice takes many unpredictable twists and turns before the truth is finally revealed.

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