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Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

by Peter Graham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2642577,656 (3.57)18
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. 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 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. Graham 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.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Search for Anne Perry: The Hidden Life of a Bestselling Crime Writer by Joanne Drayton (PuddinTame)
    PuddinTame: This book focuses on Anne Perry's (Juliet Hulme's) life and work, which includes the crime as well as her later life as a popular author. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, originally So Brilliantly Clever, focuses more on the crime and the trial, but does include some information on Parker's and Hulme's later lives.… (more)
  2. 00
    Parker & Hulme : a lesbian view by Julie Glamuzina (PuddinTame)
    PuddinTame: Parker & Hulme was actually the first book written on the case. It focuses on the social and political life of New Zealand at the time, especially with regard to lesbians, while recounting the course of the murder, trial, and media coverage. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, originally So Brilliantly Clever, has the most on the crime and trial, with some information on the afterlife of Parker and Hulme.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Who knew that author Anne Perry is a convicted murderer in real life????
Related: Peter Jackson film - Heavenly Creatures
  Jinjer | Jul 19, 2021 |
5 stars: An exceptionally good book.

From the back cover: 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.


WOW!! I devoured this book!! It was fabulous! I had vaguely heard about the story awhile back, and finally got around to watching "Heavenly Creatures." Afterwards, I discovered this book, and was instantly hooked. Graham starts by describing (much from Pauline's diary) the day before the murder, up to 48 hours after. Then he goes back in time, and first describes Juliet's growing up years, then Pauline's, to when they ultimately met, and committed the murder. Unlike Heavenly Creatures, he keeps going -- through the trial, their release, integration back into society, and then after the news broke that famous mystery writer Anne Perry was indeed Juliet Hulme, to the present day. What a fabulous book. A few particular things that struck me:

1) As described further, the psychology of Juliet as an avoidant narcissist and Pauline as ambivalent, are very clear. In particular, Juliet had difficulty attaching to others, as she was separated from her mom in infancy, and then multiple times throughout childhood, for many months at a time. Pauline also had some separation, though she was older and not as regular as Pauline's.
2) Much of the trial hinged on whether they were legally insane or not. They were found not to be, which makes sense to me. They knew what they did was morally wrong per society, they just felt the rules didn't apply to them. (sounds like narcissism!).
3) In 1954 New Zealand, homosexuality was also illegal. So much discussion of whether or not they were homosexual, and if so, were they sexual? This is never fully resolved in the book, though they certainly had a deep abiding love for each other.
4) The naivete in execution of the murder. I first thought "surely they wouldn't think they would get away with this?" Then it came out they felt only 50/50 chance - but they figured they would be together in prison. (They were not) and they wouldn't be executed as they were minors(true). The main goal was to be together. Amazing.

Just fascinating, especially the last 30 or so pages, in the psychology and aftermath.

Some passages which stood out:

The damage caused to infants by inadequate attachment to, or prolonged separation from, their mothering figures was little understood at the time...It was hardly surprising that Juliet became an even more difficult child [after being separated from her mother during the Blitz] who escaped the profound hurts of her everyday existence - sibling jealousy and the sting of maternal rejection- by retreating into an imaginary world.

Pauline's sharp tongued defiance of authority might have impressed Juliet, [as well as when Pauline] admired her cleverness, her beauty, her wonderful ideas. Pauline, too, was interested in books and poems and a world of fantasy no one except girls like them could imagine. Both had suffered debilitating childhood illnesses, known loneliness, and grown to love solitude.

Juliet's sense of abandonment by her parents had made her more and more dependent on Pauline. It was now absolutely proven that Pauline Rieper was the only person in the world who loved her.

If [Juliet's parents] had made it plain that Pauline could not, under any circumstances, go to South Africa, Nora Rieper would not have been put in the position of appearing to be the chief obstacle to the girls being together. Juliet herself said years later that her father had offered to take Pauline with them.

It was a fairly simple plan. They thought they had an even chance of getting away with it. If it didn't work it wouldn't be the end of the world. As minors, they wouldn't hang. Probably they would get only 6-7 years in jail [6] maybe less time in the loony bin if they could convince people they were insane, but they would still be together. That was the important thing. Pauline would have the great satisfaction of having avenged all her mother's miserable misdeeds and unpleasantness, but more than that the world would know of her wonderful, beautiful friendship with Juliet Hulme, who had been prepared to commit murder with her, for her, so they could be together. Forever.

In all Dr. Reg Medlicott's considerable experience he had never came across a pair like Juliet Hulme and Pauline Rieper. Neither showed the slightest remorse for the death of Honorah Rieper. On the contrary, their mood was jubilant; they had set about the murder with joyous abandon and now exalted in what they saw as their brilliant success.

Narcissism is said to be associated with inadequate development of the conscience, but the girls were different in this regard. Juliet Hulme seemed genuinely untroubled by conscience; a conscience was, she thought, senseless "Bred in people so that they punished themselves." Pauline Parker, on the other hand, struggled at times to overcome feelnigs of guilt, deeming them unworthy of a superior being. Her diary disclosed a high degree of self awareness; she did not have pleasant dreams on the eve of the murder.

"The most outstanding defect in judgment" Reg Medlicott wrote of the two girls "was their complete inability to forsee the natural outcome of their action - namely, separation." Juliet had said "Surely noone would be so illogical as to separate us. We will behave ourselves as long as no one tries to separate us." Inevitably her threats fell on deaf ears. Even if the girls had been found not guilty by reason of insanity, they would for therapeutic reasons have been sent to separate mental institutions. As it was, as convicted murderers they were dispatched to different institutions to compound punishment.

It has often been said, not least by Juliet Hulme herself, that a condition of the girls release was that they were to have no further communication. This was not so. "Miss Hulme's release is uncondtional... Ms. Parker's release is subject to general control as to her residence, employment and the like." Asked if the girls had been given an understanding to keep apart or refrain from corresponding, the secretary for justice said they had not been released on such a condition.

Anne Perry lived in southern California from 1967 to 1972. She tells the story she rented a Beverly Hills apartment "on the wrong side of the tracks, in a street lined with Jacarandas".

Ferguson agonised whether to go with the story [ that Anne Perry was Juliet Hulme]. "I knew I was going to blow up this woman's life after 40 years." Before going public, she phone Peter Jackson [ who was making "Heavenly Creatures" about the case]. Jackson spent an hour trying to persuade her not to run the story. "They're not Nazi war criminals" he argued. "They don't deserve to be hunted down."

It was the telephone call Anne Perry had been dreading for 35 yeras. "There's a ridiculous rumor going around in New Zealand. There's a film being made about a murder. They say you're Juliet Hulme, one of the.... we must put it to rest."
"You can't" Perry said. "It's the truth."

The film [Heavenly Creatures by Peter Jackson] might have been made less sympathetically by someone else, and he would never have made it if he had known Anne Perry's mother was still alive. He worried far too much. Anne Perry would say of her outing "It was the best thing that could ever have happened because now I feel free. There's nothing to be afraid of any more in the middle of the night."

"Redemption comes when you decide you want to become the person you want to be" Perry replied.

It is now well understood that a young child has a deep need to be lovingly attached to a reliable mother figure, whose unconditional adoration and physical warmth supplies emotional security. Children deprived of this are likely to become emotionally frozen or insecure, lack ego control, and have a low sense of self worth, even if this is well camoflaged. Natural feelings of affection for the mother are overwhelmed by rage, and this may be turned inward to become self loathing: people who hate their mothers invariably hate themselves as well. The wounds of maternal abandonment remain for life. The unloved or under loved child becomes ever more unlovable. Both Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker experienced difficulties with their mothers, althoughd ifferent in nature. Juliet's parents cared for her in a maternal sense and seemed fond of her, if in a somewhat cool and offhand way, but her upbringing was characterized by frequent and prolonged separations from her family in infancy and childhood...Such an upbringing can be expected to produce an "avoidant attachment" character style. "Avoidants" as they are called, have shut down their emotions to defend themselves against further injury. They cannot be warmly affectionate,. and come across as arrogantly self sufficient, seeing themselves as perfect, and incapable of admitting faults of any kind. They can be shy loners who get sick a lot. ... Avoidant attachment is known to be at the heart of narcisstic personality disorder.

In terms of character Pauline was "anxious ambivalent". Rather than being unwilling to be emotionally close to others, the ambivalent is desperate to have close relationships- although for fear no one would want to get close to them, they can act superior, in a stand offish way. Ambivalents inner feelings of self worth are sometimes so lacking they see themselves as loathsome, unclean, and even poisonous. While drawn to relationships with others, they handle them incompentently: friendships can be destroyed by eruptions of irrational rage. Jealousy and clinginess often drive away friends and potential partners. It is believed that in ambivalents the character shaping trauma occurred later in life than it did for avoidants, and that their mothers were less rejecting. It has been said that ambivalents result from partial maternal deprivation rather than drastic separation.

Brian McClelland... thought Juliet loved only herself. The Hulmes' housekeeper...went further. She believed Juliet's main consideration was to completely take over someone such as Pauline as a "shadow person".

Anne Perry finished with Pauline Parker a very long time ago. The last thing in the world she would want is some sort of emotional reconnection. Nor would Hilary Nathan [ Pauline Parker] - struggling to run her island croft, communing with God, and battling the elements and the occasional journalist invading her privacy - conceivably be eager to reestablish contact with Juliet Hulme, who proved so dangerous to know all those years ago. Would either want to be reminded of the time when Gina and Deborah [ their fantasy life characters] believed themselves goddesses, heavenly creatures, the two most glorious beings in creation? ( )
  PokPok | Jan 31, 2021 |
Fascinating! Even after 60 years a experts can only speculate as to the reasons for the girls' bizzare behavior, which culminated in the matricide of one of their mothers.
The book contains excerpts fro Pauline Parker 's diary, and an account of their lives since leaving prison. Highly recommended! ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |

Regarded as the MURDER OF THE CENTURY in the middle of a century that would see truly greater crimes, I opened this book eager to take the pulse of those tumultuous times. All too often this book flat-lined. It struggled as a history to find a point of view and seldom found a dramatic drive and instead just drifted. The author discusses in the forward that learning of this murder trial made enough of an impression on him that he immediately wanted to write about it—but then apparently life got in the way and he didn’t get around to it for over 30 more years. I squinted with some concern when I read that and that’s how the book felt. Something interesting would happen. Then it just seemed to lay there for 30 years. The resulting book feels more like just the notes he collected rather than a narrative designed to bring this history to life.

When I first heard about this 1954 murder on a podcast, I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t familiar with it already. Famous mystery writer Anne Perry when she was a teen and living under her real name in New Zealand took part in a brutal murder—helping her best friend kill her friend’s mother. Covered internationally at the time of the murder and then again when Ann Perry’s identity and past were uncovered at least partly due to the release of the murder inspired movie HEAVENLY CREATURES, I knew nothing about it. I do know a lot about it now. The author, despite the passage of time and likely passing of a lot of memories, did gather a lot of information. It is clearly written the way directions on a map are clear but a map doesn’t tell me much about a city. The editors must have sensed this lack of inertia as they present the murder in great detail up front as if trying to hook me rather than draw me in. Still, the story does fascinate despite the presentation. Much of what we now know of psychology and child rearing put an entirely different spin on what spun these girls out of control. The author does bring this up but only at the end as almost an addendum.

A well written history makes you feel like you have spent some time in the past and wonder how it connects to the present world. While this book did little to make me wonder about comparisons, real life has presented an example. The teenage girls in Wisconsin who stabbed their friend 19 times in an attempt to impress a fictional character called Slender Man bear a striking resemblance in character and tone to Anne Perry and her childhood friend.
( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
Much too long and tedious especially about trial and analysis. Upsetting to learn that an author whose books I enjoy could do this.
  Bookish59 | Nov 5, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Grahamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brooks, EricNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hurst, CeriCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Rebecca, Guy, Lucy and Louise
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By eleven o'clock in the morning, hard bright sunlight had melted the last pockets of frost from the rector's expansive lawns and dispelled the mist from the river that glided through the grounds.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Originally published in 2011 under the title So Brilliantly Clever : Parker Hulme and the Murder that Shocked the World by Awa Press, Wellington, New Zealand.
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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. 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 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. Graham 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.

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A walk in the park -- State of shock -- The investigation -- Taking the blame -- A suitable man -- Strains of war -- Cathedral City -- A new residence -- "Sapienta et veritas" -- Family secrets -- Indissoluble bond -- Two beautiful daughters -- Charles and Lance -- Angelic behaviour -- The temple in the garden -- Serious trouble -- A lovely remark -- Hectic nights -- To be together forever -- No ordinary crime -- The only possible defence -- A crime in a million -- Dirty-minded girls -- A rare form of insanity -- The thing called bliss -- Sleeping with saints -- "I see nothing insane..." -- The jury retires -- Her Majesty's pleasure -- The presence of evil -- Life in prison -- A difficult year -- A fresh start -- Blighted lives -- A secret past -- A lesbian view -- Stripped naked -- A piece of fiction -- The other girl -- What the heck was it? -- Separate lives.
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Skyhorse Publishing

2 editions of this book were published by Skyhorse Publishing.

Editions: 1620876302, 1634505182

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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