29 March 2016

Kidnapped: The Crime that Shocked the Nation by Mark Tedeschi, Australia, 2015

 I was a teenager when Graeme Thorne was kidnapped for ransom (his parents had won the Opera House lottery), but I still remember the horrifying effect it had on the whole country, and when I saw that a book had been published on the topic I was naturally drawn to it. The kidnapping by Stephen Bradley, and subsequent events, was in many ways the crime that propelled Australia into the brutal world of greed and violence, which unfortunately has become so much the norm for societies everywhere. Up until the kidnapping, Australians, on the whole, trusted and respected each other; houses were often left unlocked, and, when not at school, children spent their days beyond the limitations of parental control, often exploring. No one worried about them, because there was no reason to worry. After Graeme Thorne things slowly began to change. The kidnapping became a line between innocence and the loss of innocence.

Mark Tedeschi QC was also a child at the time of the kidnapping and was obviously affected by the crime. His book, written with the added perception of his many years in the field of law, is balanced, well presented, well researched, well written and, at all times, interesting. He goes to great lengths (both in the Preface and in the chapter entitled Hypotheses and Syntheses) to explain that there are certain aspects of Stephen Bradley's story that no one can possibly know for certain and that he therefore based Bradley's motivation and thought processes on what he managed to learn about the perpetrator, together with his own years of experience in dealing with the criminal mind.

There will be many readers of Kidnapped who, like myself, know the main points of the story before opening the first page, and yet I would imagine that Tedeschi manages to sustain both their interest and their feelings of suspense.

A book I would recommend, especially to anyone who lived through those weeks when the kidnapping was front-page news but also for anyone interested in what it is that can motivate an ordinary person to commit a heinous crime. As Tedeschi writes at the end of the book: 'Murder for greed is essentially a crime born of an abject fear of nothingness'.

Photo of Graeme's parents from
Photo of Stephen Bradley from

15 March 2016

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, UK, 1997

A Walk in the Woods is an account of the walk Bryson did with his friend Stephen along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine (three and a half thousand kilometres). Their experiences range from the dramatic to the humorous, and in between there is space for contemplation and even sympathy. Beautifully and humorously written, I would definitely recommend this book, especially for anyone who has any kind of overnight hiking experience. 

Bryson scatters much factual information through the book, both geographical and historical, and by the time I had finished the book I almost felt that I had experienced the trail at first hand. The difficulties associated with bears, snakes, unbelievably useless maps, curious tourists, inconsiderate fellow hikers, mountains, mountains, mountains, heavy packs, drenching rain and even more mountains paled against the inexpressible joy of 'owning' those kilometres of trail, of waking to unspoiled mornings and knowing that there was no one around for kilometres in all directions.

That they did not actually walk the entire three and a half thousand kilometres was slightly disappointing, but I am quite sure that they were more than content with kilometres they did walk.

The photo of Bill Bryson is from
The photo of the bear is from