Review: Tim Watson-Munro – A Shrink in the Clink

A Shrink in the Clink
Tim Watson-Munro

Tim Watson-Munro was one of the first psychologists to enter Australian prisons and offer insights into prisoner minds and motivations. Drawn into the dark criminal world, Tim himself fell into cocaine addition before finding his way back out. This non-fiction work provides another exposé of bad minds.

Well, I started off reading this book with avid fascination, and ended up not finishing it due to a sense of reading about exactly the same wrongdoings over and over again. The chapters are titled by the offenses detailed within them, yet the ‘characters’ have so much in common. I feel as if Tim tries to make them appear different, yet so many offenders have the same personality types (psychopath / narcissus) and the same upbringing (low socioeconomic status / abuse).

The writing style of this book is engaging, and an effort has been made to include different formats of text. For example, the Hoddle Street killer started to write poetry that conveyed his feelings while he was performing mass murder. I wonder what the Copyright is on these sort of things! For some reason, reading about some of these murders makes me wish the death penalty was still in place.

I first reviewed Dancing with Demons a year ago, and I haven’t revisited it. I think I’m going to pass these books onto another reader, and see what they make of them. I just feel like these two books do not really offer anything different – read one, but perhaps not both.

Macmillan | 31st July 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Reviews: Tim Watson-Munro – Dancing with Demons

Dancing with Demons
Tim Watson-Munro

Tim became a psychologist in a high security prison early in his career. This set him up well in order to become a renowned psychological criminal profiler. But a job with high visibility leads to a lot of stress, and the associated mental health and addiction problems that eventually caused Tim to fall off the rails – and write this memoir.

It’s scary that a huge number of the people who are criminals stored in prison actually have mental health problems. If those problems could have been caught earlier they probably wouldn’t have the drug habit or the addiction that led to them being put in jail in the first place!

I find it very interesting that the author refers to the jail and spells it in the American form which is JAIL not GAOL. Personally, I always thought this was a stupid way of spelling it! Spell it how it sounds, there ain’t no ‘g’ in there. It’s not a memoir for everyone. It does tackle the author’s drug problem / past drug problem quite in depth which some people could find uncomfortable to read.

This offers a quite an insight into different well-known criminal minds that although Tim has said he hasn’t revealed anything that is not publically available, is very interesting. I think that people who are more familiar with the criminal underworld would probably get even more out of it than I did. I really try to avoid following the news…

I enjoyed it because I’m interested in mental illness. I’m actually feeling quite inspired to go and look at some other statistics in the area for how many mental health problems present in this population. Of course this book documents a time when our jails were very rough and you would hope that they’ve changed by now. The novel allows the reader to look along through the years to an extent, providing some interesting information about the early years of the rehabilitation program.

It is really, really well documented that crims can’t adapt back to society. The minute that you bring them back into society, they can’t deal with freedom and usually find themselves reoffending because they don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s difficult to find jobs, it’s possible they no longer have any family left, and then only the option to survive is to go back to crime. Jail ultimately is more of a cost to the community than the criminals.

The problem is that the majority of people think that locking crims up actually solves the problem. But there are always more people to offend and it’s also well-documented that people have received training in jail from more senior criminals to commit worse crimes. There are exceptions to that of course, including chart molesters & serious people that are actually psychopaths. You can read about a fictional psychopath in Breaking Butterflies.

Pan Macmillan | 27th June 2017 | AU $34.99 | paperback

Review: Mark Tedeschi – Kidnapped

Mark Tedeschi

This novel covers Australia’s first and only kidnapping to date – Graeme Thorne was kidnapped for ransom because of his parents winning the Opera House Lottery. Unfortunately his kidnapper, Stephen Bradley killed him by accident and the ransom could never be paid. Fortunately, Bradley was eventually caught and sentenced to life for this crime.

kidnapped-the-crime-that-shocked-the-nation-9781925456349_lgSo you might think I have given away the whole novel with my opening paragraph – but in fact, you know all of that information almost from just reading the blurb and reading the first chapter. That alone would have killed the novel for me.

I picked this novel up from someone else’s TBR pile from publishers, because I was getting into crime and was excited to get my hands on some more Australian fiction. I should have known better perhaps. I so wanted to like it though!

This crime was one of the first to be solved using modern forensic techniques, and that alone should have made it more exciting for me. I like to know the science behind things, such as in Blood Secrets. Instead, I’m sorry. I found this novel utterly boring. I finished it only by skimming the last couple of chapters in despair of something truly exciting happening.

I’ve giving this novel 2 stars. Maybe another person who really REALLY loves true crime fiction will love it, but for me, the outcome was known too quickly and there was no sense of suspense to keep me reading.


Simon & Schuster | December 2015 | $32.99 | Paperback

Review: Vikki Petraitis – Forensics

Vikki Petraitis

This is a non-fiction expose of some of the forensic techniques Australian Crime Scene Investigators use. It has 7 true life crimes, ranging from a hit-run to an ‘accidental’ stabbing.

ForensicsThis was impressive because Petraitis had obviously done her work well (as she has in her other books, which I now want to get my hands on), and she places the emphasis on the human touch. Humans are fallible, and criminal ones even more so. The book also highlighted the impact on police officers’ family lives in the days after a crime.

There was just a single chapter that annoyed me, and that was the one where it was a series of shorter events. I must preferred when I could ride on the back of a longer case, and feel like I was right there in the action and come to my own conclusions.

Something that came through to me was the shortcomings of the Australian justice system. First, it’s that most of these criminals are really dumb, and yet police officers have to try build an ‘airtight’ case around them. A confession of guilt isn’t enough to actually pin the charge on someone! Half the time they can tell the truth and get out of most of their sentence anyway.

My other complaint is that many people are reoffenders – what does it take to put them behind bars permanently when they will just continue to reoffend? Sexual assault, murder, killing just for the hell of it, they can all get out and do it again.

I picked this up for 50c at a garage sale, and it was totally worth it! It took me around 2 hours to read on, and with the exceptions I have mentioned, it was good. 4 stars from me.


Review: Ann Walmsley – The Prison Book Club

The Prison Book Club
Ann Walmsley

This non-fiction grabber reads like a fictional book. Who could imagine going into a prison in order to read literature with inmates convicted of murder, drug dealing and robbery. That’s what Ann did, somehow getting over her fear of tattooed men who might want to hurt her.

24876660I’ve never really thought about prison settings, not since my review of Peacock Blue, and of course that isn’t a Western prison. This prison is harsh, and grimy, and that’s what makes the transformation of the men within the book club surrounds more profound. They have high, intelligent thinking, despite what they might have done on the outside.

I wished I knew more, or perhaps less, about the affluent book club that Ann is part of in the outside world. I couldn’t imagine the fancy cheeses or anything else being attractive to me. Ann’s standing in the world wasn’t clear to me at all – did she have a day job? Does that actually matter?

I’ve sort of wanted to join a book club, but I think in general I read the wrong genres of novels. I’m not really a high literature or even mostly adult fiction reader. This didn’t go to prove me wrong, but maybe since I am reading more adult fantasy at the moment (Brandon Sanderson, drool), I could get into that. But then again, I have so many other good novels to read…

More could have been made of the benefits of the book club. There were some places for statistics that wouldn’t have gone astray for me. I did like how Ann followed the men outside prison after their release, and how it made her feel more comfortable in her own skin. Insights into her own life were welcome too.

I requested this novel. I was looking for something a bit more ‘meaty’ to read, and this was it. Non-fiction is not usually my thing, but this novel was really great. I’d put it on a book club reading list any day!