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A Child's Book of True Crime


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This first novel is no timid creature. Rather, Chloe Hooper has embraced big themes - sex, death, childhood, history - and has done so with a powerful individual style. The narrator, Kate, is a young teacher in a small Tasmanian town who is having an affair with the father of one of her students. Her lover is married to the writer of a successful true crime book about a murder in the area, tellingly involving a married couple and the husband's lover. This intertwining of sex and death is central to the novel. Just as the prose is suffused with sexuality, death pervades Kate's environment - the roads around the town are littered with roadkill; war memorials in country towns recall the fallen; her father's school was built on a graveyard. And throughout the book there is the palimpsest of violent episodes in Tasmania's history, particularly the genocide of the Aboriginal population. Individual histories are thus shadowed by other people's histories and by broader social history. With so much going on beneath the surface, the `undertow' in the music Kate and Thomas listen to on their way to a hotel room serves as a metaphor for the novel itself. Hooper has brilliantly created a world in which the ground shifts constantly underneath the narrator's, and the reader's, feet. Highly literary, and filled with ideas, this book justifies the `Next Big Thing' hype. Lorien Kaye is editor of AB&P. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

From a young Australian comes this darkly comic debut starring Kate Byrne, a 22-year-old fourth-grade teacher at Endport Primary in Tasmania. One of Kate's favorite students is Lucien Marne, whose precociousness and premature cynicism make him an outsider in class. He greatly resembles his father, Thomas, a well-to-do lawyer with whom Kate is having a passionate affair. After Thomas's urbane wife, Veronica, publishes a creepy children's book, Murder at Black Swan Point, strange things begin to happen to Kate. In her book, Veronica inserts cute Australian animal characters into a gruesome plot based on a real-life crime: teenager Eleanor Siddell worked as an assistant to veterinarian Graeme Harvey; the older man seduced Eleanor, who easily succumbed to his charms. Allegedly, when Graeme's wife discovered their secret trysts, she murdered the girl and disappeared, leaving her abandoned car atop Suicide Cliffs. Now, in the wake of increasingly disturbing events the failure of her car's brakes, Lucien's violent drawings Kate suspects that perhaps Veronica wrote the book as a warning, or maybe even a plan of action. Kate's paranoia leads her to distrust everyone, including herself. The writing, though frequently excellent, is compromised by the book's overall feeling of disorganization. Kate displays a level of sophistication unlikely for a 22-year-old who's just striking out on her own she tosses off such observations as "perhaps all perversity comes gift-wrapped, so to speak, in the banal" and far too many pages are devoted to her musings on Eleanor's murder. Hooper's wicked, sexy tale nevertheless proves she is a writer of great promise. 6-city author tour. (Mar. 19) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Jennifer Egan The New York Times Book Review A striking, ambitious first novel...Hooper forces open her material so that it resonates beyond itself, and she does this with...curiosity and instinctive grace.
Vince Passaro O The Oprah Magazine A brilliant, seductive, and unnerving first novel of sexual betrayal and murder...Hooper's novel is so tightly woven, so sophisticated, so full of sharp psychological truth and complex emotional and sexual life that you really have trouble believing it could be anyone's first book.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer A stunning, literate debut that combines a taut story and a unique structure...It is Hooper's prowess and her keen grasp of human psychology that make the book so rewarding.
The New Yorker A witty and unsettling meditation on innocence and experience.
The Wall Street Journal Ironic, moving, full of keen perceptions and striking sentences...a tour de force.

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