"What was it like for Mary-Ann Hodge to be married to Mark 'Chopper' Read? How was Joe Korp's former girlfriend Tania Herman persuaded to try to kill his wife Maria? And why did hairdresser Sylvia Bruno fall for Melbourne gangland killer Nikolai 'The Bulgarian' Radev?"
Why on earth was I reading a book on this subject matter? There was a not inconsiderable part of me that was wondering if I was rapidly tipping right over into some sort of voyeur. Although, the chapter about Tania Herman seemed to be going to answer something that never really came out at the time of the dreadful killing of Maria Korp - that idea of ... why / how / what the?
Given my discomfort I'm perfectly prepared to admit that I started reading this book fully expecting a whole heap of attempted reputation restoration. Excuses, reasons and justifications. Some hefty doses of what I'd call "the Judy Moran defence" - I didn't know / not in front of me / never suspected... All the stuff that's next to impossible to swallow no matter how hard you chew. Whilst there are some alternative viewpoints of some of the men that these women hooked up with, apart from a few exceptions, there was acknowledgement of how they earned their money and the sorts of lives they lived. In Herman's case there was an honesty about what she did, that made why she did it, if not understandable, at least believable. There was even, in other chapters, refreshing honesty about the daftness of thinking that you can change any man, let alone an institutionalised career criminal with a long history of violence.
What Jackson, as the author of these women's stories has done, is avoid some obvious pitfalls. There's not a lot of excusing going on, although there is some explanation of how somebody might dig themselves into a hole this deep. Whilst some of the women are attempting to explain the inexplicable, the delivery gives you an opportunity to hear their side, look at the relationship from their viewpoint, and make up your own mind about the motives and outcomes for each of these women.
At the end of the book I still had a sneaking suspicion that I'd stuck my nose way too far into the personal aspects of people's lives. But then again, none of these women were forced into telling their stories, and perhaps understanding how it is that you can get yourself into these situations might help others from going there, or getting themselves back out again in one piece if it's already too late.