Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: MOTHERS WHO MURDER by Dr Xanthe Mallett

Mothers Who MurderFrom the back of the book:
All of these women are notorious, but are all of them deadly? Child murder: A social taboo and one of the most abhorrent acts most of us can imagine. Meet the women found guilty of murdering their own children. They represent some of the most hated women in Australia. The infamous list includes psychologically damaged, sometimes deranged, women on the edge. But, as we will see, accused doesn't always mean guilty. Among the cases covered is that of Kathleen Folbigg, accused and found guilty of killing four of her children, even with a lack of any forensic evidence proving her guilt; Rachel Pfitzner, who strangled her 2-year-old son and dumped his body in a duck pond; as well as Keli Lane, found guilty of child murder though no body has ever been found.Dr Mallett goes back to the beginning of each case; death's ground zero. That might be the accused's childhood, were they abused? Or was their motivation greed, or fear of losing a partner? Were they just simply evil? Or did the media paint them as such, against the evidence and leading to a travesty of justice.Each case will be re-opened, the alternative suspects assessed, the possible motives reviewed. Informed by her background as a forensic scientist, Xanthe offers insight into aspects of the cases that may not have been explored previously. Taking you on her journey through the facts, and reaching her own conclusion as to whether she believe the evidence points to the women's guilt. Hear their stories.
My Review:
Many readers would hold a macabre curiosity attached to the topical nature of this book if not a passing interest by virtue of the unspeakable act implicit in the title. The very thought of a maternal parent undertaking such a heinous crime in murdering their child is incomprehensible to many (myself included) yet, there are a sinister few who have done this. Dr Xanthe Mallett looks at a number of infamous cases and provides an objective interpretation and overview of the particulars that led to the unfortunate course of events while also examining the core police investigation, witness accounts, forensic evidence, and passing her theory on the presumption of innocence or justifiable conviction. 
MOTHERS WHO MURDER is a hard book to put down; the writing style and chapter layout make it instantly readable and easily consumable in a few sittings. Dr Mallett’s use of layman’s terms integrated within the narrative make this more of a read for casual true crime enthusiasts as opposed to a text book laden with jargon - instantly appealing to a broader audience of reader.
Familiarity with the cases isn’t a prerequisite to comprehend what Dr Mallett is further elaborating on as each chapter detailing a case provides sufficient background and extensive reference points for further reading.
Do I feel any different about some of the cases depicted in MOTHERS WHO MURDER in comparison to what I knew of these crimes prior to reading? Yes. It’s an answer that shocks me but one that I imagine, Dr Mallett had intended throughout the course of writing the book. Presenting detailed factual evidence forensically examined and subsequently explained in layman’s terms allows the reader to make their own judgement without prejudice.  
Dr Mallett at the end of the book favourably leans towards writing more – given how MOTHERS WHO MURDER turned out; I hope this eventuates in more true crime books in the future.


  1. I feel both intrigued by this book and inclined to avoid it because of the subject. :-) I think that, as a mother, this would be hard for me to read. However it does sound quite interesting. I like the fact that, based on your review, the author leaves room for readers to draw their own conclusions. Too few "expert" authors respect the intelligence of their readers.

    1. Hi Irene, I agree, as a father I wasn't sure about picking this up but I am glad I did.

  2. I have been reading a lot of Ann Rule's books since finding out that she has updated all of her books to ebook format, currently reading, "A Rose For Her Grave," A chilling account of several cold-blooded killers including one man who would marry women for their Social Security benefits and then ruthlessly kill them. The book is a difficult read, yet intriguing, which I am sure describes "Mothers Who Murder." I will check it out next!

    1. A Rose For Her Grave sounds interesting, I'll have to look out for it.