Malcolm Brown is a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, where he covered (amongst other things) courts, royal commissions and coroners' inquests for more than 30 years. As well as editing COLD BLOODED MURDER, he has contributed a number of chapters, with remaining sections coming from a range of other journalists all from the region in which the crime was committed.
The book is broken up into chapters about a number of recent notorious crimes in all parts of Australia. A number of these crimes are particularly well known - the Snowtown, South Australia "bodies in the barrels", the murder of 4 of the babies of Kathleen Folbigg in New South Wales, and the Victorian "body in the boot" case of Maria Korp. Others are perhaps not so well known - the Sef Gonzales' killing of his parents and sister, the shooting death of Dr Margaret Tobin and the Wales-King killing in Melbourne where a son bludgeoned his mother and stepfather to death. Regardless of whether or not the reader knows anything at all about any of the crimes, it is the Cold Blooded nature of each one of these killings that is particularly sobering.
The name of the book is brutally indicative of the contents - there isn't a single killing in this that doesn't have a profound feeling of Cold Bloodedness to it. The method of telling the details of each case isn't sensationalist, or particularly gory or tabloid. It's mostly a very calm, careful relating of the events around each case and the acts of the killers. Maybe that's what makes the details even more startling. Because of the nature of the book, there is no indepth analysis or attempt to explain the nature of each case - each chapter is relatively short, sharp and to the point.
But the sheer breadth of the the cases is astounding, even if the reasons behind so many of them were so mundane, so ... well ... pathetic is about the only word that seems to come close.
Part One - Extended War covers the assassination of John Newman MP (particularly timely given that there was further court action underway whilst I was reading this); the rampage of Danny Karam's gang and the Bodies in the Barrels. Part Two - Psycho Killings covers the murder of Dr Margaret Tobin, the chain reaction triggered by paedophilia in Wollongong; and a brutal murder by bow and arrow in Sydney's northern beaches; finally covering the serial infanticide committed by Kathleen Folbigg. Part Three is then Family Killings - The woman in the boot, Maria Korp; John Sharpe's killing of his wife and daughter with a spear gun; the Wales-King killings and finally the case Sef Gonzales' who killed his parents and his sister.
At the end of it all, it's very hard to decide what's more disturbing. The sheer visciousness of the thrill killings of Snowtown, or the incredibly bumbling and callous cover up attempts by Gonzales' and Wales. Maybe what is more disturbing is the way that one person can manipulate another to commit such a cruel act as in the Maria Korp case.
Certainly COLD BLOODED MURDER isn't a pleasant read, but then it's obviously not meant to be. This isn't a fictional account, it's true crime.