#TasmanianLitMonth: A Child’s Book of True Crime, by Chloe Hooper

Photo and bio courtesy of Penguin Random House

About Chloe Hooper

Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island (2008) won the Victorian, New South Wales, West Australian and Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, as well as the John Button Prize for Political Writing, and a Ned Kelly Award for crime writing. She is also the author of two novels, A Child’s Book of True Crime and The Engagement.

Review written by guest contributor, Zane Pinner

An atmosphere of secretive sex and violence pervades a Tasmanian seaside village in A Child’s Book of True Crime (2002) by Chloe Hooper. This well-crafted, complex and lyrical examination of a young woman’s descent into fearful paranoia illustrates the tensions that simmer just below the surface of traumatised communities. The disturbing atmosphere of the novel, along with its competing narratives and contrasting themes, make it a prime example of Tasmanian Gothic literature.   

Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Kate Byrne, a young schoolteacher, engages in an adulterous affair with a married man. The man’s wife has recently published a true-crime novel, Murder at Black Swan Point, about an unsolved murder in a nearby town. As Kate learns about the slain adulteress in Murder at Black Swan Point, she can’t help but notice the similarities between the murder victim’s situation and her own. Kate becomes obsessed with re-writing the story and solving the mystery. She begins to narrate the fallout of the murder through a series of stories told by Australian native animals. 

The juxtaposition between the gently benign native animals and the violent, secretive humans is skillfully woven and unsettling. There are layers and layers of story here and Kate, the most unreliable of narrators, begins to collapse under the weight of it all. As her life and sanity unravel, an exquisite sense of social paranoia blooms in a garden of innocence and childlike wonder. She sees darkness and menace and the creeping threat of violence, but it is up to the reader to decide whether these dangers really exist. 

There is a sinister unreality in this novel, where the reader becomes increasingly unsure of what is real, of what happened in Murder at Black Swan Point, of what might happen to Kate. With the occasional flash of black humor and Hooper’s undeniably stylish prose, A Child’s Book of True Crime is a disturbing, purposefully frustrating novel that will reward patient readers. 

About Zane

Zane Pinner is a Tasmanian author and filmmaker whose novel about a haunted cinema, Encore, continues the tradition of Tasmanian Gothic.

Shortlisted for the 2022 University of Tasmania Prize for the best new unpublished literary work by a Tasmanian writer, “Last Saturday in Invermay”.

Zane on Goodreads

Zane on Twitter

About guest curator, Bec Taylor

I’m Bec Taylor, the EY3 – Grade 2 cybrarian* at the International School of Beijing, China. I’m a global nomad with Australian roots and a Chinese family home – all my immediate family have lived and worked in Beijing as international school teachers for many, many years.  

Overly enthusiastic about everything especially children’s literature, Australian Rules Football (go Doggies!) and food, glorious food, I am easily bribed with coffee and dark chocolate. I am a passionate advocate of social justice, female financial literacy, and finding ways to tread more lightly on the planet. Alongside the demands of a busy family and professional life, I enjoy cultivating community through volunteer work that focuses on healthy families.

I am the current Chair of the Chinese international schools reading promotion, the Panda Book Awards. Titles chosen for the shortlists of the Panda Book Awards meet selection criteria that focus on social justice, diversity and inclusion by up and coming authors and illustrators from across the world. There is an added spotlight on titles that feature Asian settings, characters or creators. 

Twitter is my favourite professional development space so please come find me there: @becinthelibrary

The educational hills I will die on are:

  • a child’s right to choose what they love to read,
  • there is serious magic in reading aloud,
  • and the belief that schools are happier, more equitable places with better academic outcomes when the properly funded school library is well staffed with qualified, collaborative and passionate professionals.

*a fancy name that formalises and acknowledges the incredible work teacher librarians do each day to find authentic ways to integrate and explore educational technology in order to capture, expand, and enhance student learning.

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