The Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (Andrews McMeel, $39.99)
Reviewed by Louise Ward
This is a graphic memoir. For the uninitiated, that means that Hilary is relating her experiences in cartoon form, as she is indeed a cartoonist and comedian.
Hilary's abiding, obsessive concern is murder. She has always been fascinated by stories of kidnaps and killings and has been surrounded by like minds who thrive on the oh my god have you heard kind of stories that neighbours, friends and family dissect and chew on.
Hilary decides she would like to get to the bottom of her dark interest, one she shares with a great number of people, mostly women, who devour true crime books, TV series, movies and podcasts.
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Is it her mother's influence? A manifestation of anxiety? Hilary talks to her family (with whom she is close, and whose great-uncle was F. Scott Fitzgerald on her mother's side), her friends, her lover, and random people in bars and restaurants who make the mistake of asking 'what are you reading?'
Hilary's personality and quest for a gag shines from every page, her habit of oversharing described with brio – anyone who feels the need to announce I need to pee will relate.
For the true crime fans, Hilary begins with the Zodiac killer whose hunting grounds were on her doorstep. There are also in-depth conversations about Ted Bundy and Tom Capano, with a great discussion of how killers and victims are represented: the charming man, the pretty white girl, the black victims (and killers) that don't get any press. Hilary nuts it all out, quite often with her mother, raising important points.
Reading a graphic text is a wonderful experience. You get to spend time decoding the illustrations as well as the words, and learn how the speech bubbles are set out so that you can read them in the right order. It's immediate, interactive, and completely immersive.
This was a fascinating read - bang up to date, funny and clever, horribly fascinating. You won't be able to look away.