THE DEVIL'S GARDEN - Debi Marshall

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The Devil's Garden
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Book Synopsis

In the mid-1990s, three girls went missing within a short space of time after visiting nightclubs in Claremont Western Australia. The state of Western Australia was in shock. Claremont is a salubrious suburb of Perth. Three women disappearing from relatively safe streets without a trace was very disturbing. The investigation has continued full-time for more than 10 years, the biggest in the history of the WA Police. And it is now Australia’s longest-running and most expensive murder investigation. Controversy surrounding the Claremont killings has not faded with time. There are a number of suspects. Bodies of two of the three missing women have been found. But what about all those other young women in Western Australia who have not been seen for years—are they also victims of the Claremont serial killer? Debi Marshall looks critically at the police investigations and 16 other disappearances in Western Australia. She talks to everyone involved including forensic investigators, criminologists, the police, the media, and the victims’ parents. The results of her investigations should not be ignored.

Book Review

THE DEVIL'S GARDEN was a book I picked up because the case it covers - The Claremont Serial Killings - is unfortunately still unsolved, and because I've been reading a little about a number of cases in WA recently.  It made me want to find out more about the nature of the investigation into the murders of two young women, and the disappearance of a third in 1996 and 1997.

What I discovered from this book is an inkling into the tunnel vision of the police force which appears to be consistent with the attitude displayed in another case in the same state of Australia.

I also managed to discover a little about the girls who died, the impact their deaths had on the families, and in particular the devastation felt by one family, whose daughter's has never been found - assumed dead at the hands of the same killer.

True Crime for me works best when it either lays out the facts of a case allowing the reader to come to a better understanding of the events or when, in the case of miscarriages of justice or unsolved cases, it investigates, analyses the evidence and builds a possible scenario with supporting details.

What doesn't work for me is something that I'm increasingly noticing from books from this author - gratuitous intrusion of the author into the story.  Fair enough if the author is interviewing witnesses, drawing out aspects of the case, working on an investigation on behalf of a wrongly convicted person, then observations / commentary are expected.  What's not expected, and seemed increasingly discomforting are the author's "feelings" on driving around in cars in Perth, the way that the scene where one of the poor girls was found "felt", and enough other off-pitch elements that left me with an increasing impression of grandstanding.  

Which is unfortunate, as this is a case that seems to deserve a considered, factual telling.

All Reviews of Books by this Author


I thought this book was well written, empathetic, unsentimental, but above all, it keeps the reality of an unknown menace in sharp perspective. A man that is, that hasn't left shadow of a trace of himself. But thats not all. It offers further proof of what I've always sensed about these type of crimes, that is that the public, the police, and yes even the psychological experts, just cannot begin to truly understand the point of view of the sexual sadist. Time and again it can be seen, it begins with conscientious investigation and publicity, but very soon turns into a fiasco of sorts with absurd suspects, impotent but guarded investigators, and a general lack of guidance. The two most famous examples are none other than Englands Jack the Ripper and America's Zodiac Killer. And its no coincidence that neither those two notorious killers or our Claremont murderer (so-far) were ever caught.

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