Literary biographer Drayton (Design/Unitec Institute of Technology; Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime, 2008, etc.) turns her attention to novelist Anne Perry (b. 1938) and the past she couldn’t keep hidden.
The author begins at a pivotal moment in Perry’s life: the phone call from a journalist to her agent offering the theory—about to be printed—that Perry was actually Juliet Hulme, perpetrator of a famous New Zealand murder. When that theory turned out to be fact, the lives of Perry and all those connected to her were turned upside down. Perry, her agents and her publicist have always argued that the murder is in the past, and Perry, who committed the crime as a teenager, and her family should be allowed to leave it there. While it is difficult not to feel for Perry, it is equally difficult to ignore the fact that the argument holds sway over this biography as well. Drayton creates a conundrum in which she has made Perry’s unveiling as Hulme the center of the book but also believes it deserves less attention than it’s been given. However, the author ably plumbs the Hulme story for how it has shaped Perry’s crime fiction and provides other insights into Perry’s writing style and process. The author includes detailed background on Perry’s unpublished attempts, as well as the origins and development of many of her best-selling books. Though they interrupt the narrative flow, descriptions of each of Perry’s novels will trigger interest for those unfamiliar with her work. Drayton tells a beguiling story of an author’s climb to the best-seller lists and how a secret she would rather keep hidden was publicly made known.
Occasionally uneven but a pleasure for Perry’s loyal fans and a book that is likely to win her some new ones as well.