JOE CINQUE'S CONSOLATION - Helen Garner
Read this book for our f2f bookclub meeting this weekend. Unfortunately I'm going to miss that gathering now, so I'm waiting to hear what reports himself brings back from everyone else - as I think it's going to be quite a discussion.
JOE CINQUE'S CONSOLATION isn't a "traditional" true crime book. What starts out as feeling like a genuine attempt on the part of the author to understand the case, the participants (victim and perpetrator(s)), quickly becomes an analysis of why this is such an elusive and frankly, bizarre case. Anu Singh, the woman ultimately convicted of the manslaughter of Joe Cinque, is a very elusive figure in this book, and the reader quickly becomes as frustrated as the author seems to have been in trying to understand this woman's motivation and thinking. This frustration extends to her family who also seem to spend more time trying to cover up, rather than understand what on this earth makes a drama queen like Anu Singh "suddenly" decide that her boyfriend has damaged her health and somehow or other he has to be included in her supposed suicide.
Not just because the author (who declares this bias and its reasons) got very close to Joe Cinque's mother in particular, it's very hard not to feel some sympathy for his family. Despite two court cases, despite so many people circling around this young couple, despite so many supposedly intelligent and responsible young people who knew that something was up, somehow Joe Cinque died horribly. It's very hard to put down this book and not wonder very very hard about Anu Singh, her family, and all the things that were totally left unexplained by this book. It's very easy to understand why this is such a frustrating book - it's one of the most frustrating cases I've ever read about.
In October 1997, a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests - most of them university students - had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of Rohypnol and heroin.His girlfriend and her best friend were charged with murder.
Helen Garner followed the trials in the ACT Supreme Court. Compassionate but unflinching, this is a book about how and why Joe Cinque died. It probes the gap between ethics and the law; examines the helplessness of the courts in the face of what we think of as "evil"; and explores conscience, culpability, and the battered ideal of duty of care.