Book Review: What The Mother Knew

Book Review: What The Mother Knew

Buy a copy of the book here.

A review of my book in the Sydney Morning Herald:

By Edmund Tadros
Fairfax Books, 160pp, $29.95

We have become so used to faux gruesome murders on television cop and crime shows that recounting the details of a real murder can seem almost pallid and uninspiring by comparison.

In this account of the murder of Jody Galante, Herald journalist Edmund Tadros (whom I have never met) has realised the problem posed by television and opts for an unusual and effective technique.

Tell the story as a straight, chronological description of events. Provide transcripts of proceedings and, in an unusual form of flashback, interweave unfolding events with childhood memories. Don’t embellish, psychologise or theorise. Let the drama, with all its nuances and subtleties, unfold as an unfiltered piece of reality.

The challenge of this kind of “verite” writing is sustaining a sense of drama, particularly when all the reader has to do is look at the title, look carefully at Steven Siewert’s dramatic cover image or read the back-cover blurb, which declares: “What drives a man to kill his wife in cold blood?” to know how the book’s narrative is resolved. The technique adopted by Tadros, which works superbly, is to create a situation in which both the reader and Jody’s mother become convinced, long before the evidence is gathered and the murderer confesses, that the killer is Mark Galante. It’s a variation on the literary device known as dramatic irony: the reader knows who the killer is but the police are still investigating. The reader becomes engrossed in the story as the police build their case.

This is a beautifully written account of a murder. It is genuinely original in its approach and suitably circumspect in its conclusions. The way it weaves interviews with family members, transcripts of internet chat rooms, snippets of dialogue, police press releases and a note written by Mark Galante into a compelling narrative gives the story a powerful momentum. But don’t expect a neat televisual conclusion. Tadros admits at the end of the book that no one, with any certainty, knows exactly why Mark Galante killed his wife.


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