Reviewing true crime books, particularly one that discusses such a recent case, is a complex undertaking. There are obviously people out there for whom this case is still very raw and who are still dealing with the fallout of a violent death and the associated grief and loss.
The attraction of true crime books, for me at least, is the chance to assess the events, understand the reality of crime, and maybe understand why the crime happened. True Crime books often, however, aren't able to explain why. Perhaps because the offender themselves has never clearly said why - perhaps because they are denying culpability, perhaps because they aren't able to explain. Sometimes the why isn't explained because the book identifies flaws in the case against the offender. In WHAT THE MOTHER KNEW the murder of Jody Galante is resolved, in that her husband Mark finally pleaded guilty. For the reader of the book, however, the why isn't so clear. The motivations of her husband Mark aren't clear. His behaviour remains, to the end of the book, slightly enigmatic, something seems slightly odd. You're left deciding if he's just a damaged individual or if he is actually an evil, manipulative man.
The most poignant part of this book (and it's not a particularly comforting read, it's quite disturbing in places), is the affect that this murder had on both Jody and Mark's families. Much of Jody's background, in particular, is revealed pretty starkly - mind you, family in this day and age is a complicated beast and the days of idyllic "Leave it to Beaver" style Happy Families are well behind a great majority of us. But there's something particularly poignant and breathtaking about a girl who has grown up in the not most idyllic circumstances, who came out of that as a basically happy person, who just wanted a family of her own, who ends up shot dead in the bush - the victim of her own husband, who then can't bring himself to clearly say why.
It all seems so pointless, so very very pointless. The murder itself seems utterly pointless, the games played by Mark Galante in trying to prove a mental illness pointless. Continuing to push that line of defence after pleading guilty seems so pointless. A little girl with a dead mother, and a father she'll not see until she is an adult (if at all). A mother who has lost her youngest daughter. A mother and father who have to deal with the reality of loving a son, but never forgiving him for what he did. WHAT THE MOTHER KNEW is a worrying, disquieting, disturbing book. But then crime and the reality of what happens in our society these days should be. It should be read - violence is ultimately so pointless, and WHAT THE MOTHER KNEW is one of the starkest reminders of that that I've read in quite a while.
For more on the book please visit the website whatthemotherknew.com