Title: The Killing Streets
Author: Tanya Bretherton
Published: February 25th 2020
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Non Fiction, Historical, True Crime
Rating: 4 stars
From the acclaimed author of THE SUITCASE BABY and THE SUICIDE BRIDE, the story of a series of horrific murders that began in 1930s Sydney – and a killer who remained at large for over two decades.
In December 1932, as the Depression tightened its grip, the body of a woman was found in Queens Park, Sydney. It was a popular park. There were houses in plain view. Yet this woman had been violently murdered without anyone noticing. Other equally brutal and shocking murders of women in public places were to follow. Australia’s first serial killer was at large.
Police failed to notice the similarities between the victims until the death of one young woman – an aspiring Olympic swimmer – made the whole city take notice. On scant evidence, the unassuming Eric Craig was arrested. But the killings didn’t stop…
This compelling story of a city crippled by fear and a failing economy, of a killer at large as panic abounds, is also the story of what happens when victims aren’t perfect and neither are suspects, and when a rush to judgement replaces the call of reason.
Tanya Bretherton’s previous novel, The Suicide Bride, was shortlisted for the Danger Prize. This acclaimed author returns with another riveting and well told true crime based story. The Killing Streets closely examines a number of horrific murder cases of women that occurred across Sydney in the early 1930s.
Bretherton’s third historical based true crime novel looks at a series of brutal murders that took place in the heart of depression era Sydney. These murders begin their journey in Queens Park, Sydney. The body of a woman is uncovered in a well populated and frequented area. Despite the brutal nature of the murder, there are no witnesses and little clues. The Queens Park murder also signals the unfortunate beginning of a number of murders with similarities to this case. After a number of murders occur in public places, like the Queens Park case, the police deduce that a serial killer must be on the prowl. This reaches breaking point when an aspiring female Olympic swimmer becomes this deranged killer’s latest victim. There is increased pressure to find and arrest a suspect. However, in their haste, a suspect is arrested but the police are issued with huge problem when the murders continue. The Killing Streets charts a time when Sydneysiders were gripped with fear and uncertainty.
It was a more than welcome experience to be able to read and review the third true crime offering from respected author Tanya Bretherton. With a PhD in sociology and her work in narrative life history, along with social history, this senior research fellow has produced a series of books that are carefully researched. I admire Bretherton’s unique blend of bringing to life lost fragments of Australia’s criminal past, which is deftly combined with her critical interrogation of the historical conditions of Australia’s past. In The Killing Streets, Bretherton turns her attention specifically to 1930s Sydney and the case of Australia’s first serial murderer. It makes for a fascinating reading file.
As with her previous text, The Killing Streets sees Bretherton devote some time to highlighting the context in which the crime cases occurred. Bretherton draws our attention to the tough economic conditions of Australian society during the 1930s. The author also casts a critical eye over the treatment of women at this time. We see how this gaze directly impacted the way in which the police approached many of the murder cases. Class issues also come into play, as the lower class victims of this crazed killer did not receive the same police treatment as the aspiring Olympic swimmer. The unfair nature of the whole debacle of the murders is laid bare. From the bungled police work, to the lack of evidence, the absence of reliable forensics and the lack of witnesses. In the rush to convict a killer to appease the anxious public, we learn that a wrongful charge occurred, as the killings continued after the accused was jailed. The mind truly boggles as to how this was allowed to occur!
I was thoroughly impressed by Tanya Bretherton’s commitment to the research base of her book. Bretherton has ensured that The Killings Streets is supported by a range of sources. In her Author’s Note, Bretherton mentions the use of a range of primary sources such as inquest papers, court transcripts, files, gaol records, correspondence and newspaper articles. All this evidence helps to form a clear picture of the cases. However, there are some gaps in these sources, which Bretherton admits has impacted on the production of this book.
Over nineteen thrilling and informative chapters, Tanya Bretherton passionately transports the reader back to a dark time in Sydney’s tragic past. The Killing Streets opens up a deep wound, exposing an era filled with violence, economic strife, fear and anxiety, which sits alongside themes of injustice.
The Killing Streets by Tanya Bretherton is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $32.99
To learn more about the author of The Killing Streets, Tanya Bretherton, visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Killing Streets is book #47 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge