Review - A Murder Without Motive, Martin McKenzie-Murray

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

True Crime writing seems, to this outside observer, to be a minefield of complications. Personal connections to a real crime event, either of the victim, the perpetrator, or community can create a situation that authors must carefully negotiate. Because of this it does seem that true crime structure either takes a particularly fact based / no conclusions drawn approach, or steps into a very personal viewpoint. Martin McKenzie-Murray grew up in the same neighbourhood as Rebecca Ryle, his brother knew the man found guilty of her murder, and even though the author didn't personally know any of the parties, he has used that concept of a personal viewpoint in an unusual manner.

The author is extremely present in A MURDER WITHOUT MOTIVE. Right from the beginning the recounting of the murder of Ryle is filtered through personal experience and observation. Alongside the facts of the case, McKenzie-Martin immediately offers his own analysis of the perpetrator's motives, and the community / society in which the events took place. There is an overwhelming sense that somehow, middle class Perth, created an environment of casual violence and male entitlement that this perpetrator bought into. This over-heated environment then the likely catalyst for why he killed, offering a possible reason in the vacuum of explanation left by the killer himself.

Speculation of motive also expands to a possible recreation of many of the events surrounding Ryle's death. This is a less successful aspect of the book, creating a slightly off tone, perhaps because it moves things from speculation on motive and causation, onto a path with a slight whiff of voyeurism along it. 

An extremely unusual approach to True Crime, the style of language employed is also off the beaten track. Very descriptive, dare one say "flowery" at points, it's a style that's either going to engage or grate excessively on individual readers. Which sort of makes sense given the whole nature of A MURDER WITHOUT MOTIVE. The author states in the Afterword (and I'm paraphrasing) that he wanted to write a true crime book that illustrated the impact on family, and the problems associated with moving on. Readers are going to have to make their own minds up on whether or not that aim was achieved.

Year of Publication

In 2004, the body of a young Perth woman was found on the grounds of a primary school. Her name was Rebecca Ryle. The killing would mystify investigators, lawyers, and psychologists - and profoundly rearrange the life of the victim's family.

It would also involve the author's family, because his brother knew the man charged with the murder. For years, the two had circled each other suspiciously, in a world of violence, drugs, and rotten aspirations.

A Murder Without Motive is a police procedural, a meditation on suffering, and an exploration of how the different parts of the justice system make sense of the senseless. It is also a unique memoir: a mapping of the suburbs that the author grew up in, and a revelation of the dangerous underbelly of adolescent ennui.

Review Review - A Murder Without Motive, Martin McKenzie-Murray
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Blog Am Reading - A Murder Without Motive, Martin McKenzie-Murray
Karen Chisholm
Monday, February 1, 2016

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