A Child's Book of True Crime

A Novel

A Child's Book of True Crime

With the dark suspense of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and the frank and shocking eroticism of Josephine Hart, this debut novel tells the story of a young teacher’s illicit affair and obsession with a historical murder.

Tasmanian schoolteacher Kate Byrne is having an affair with the father of her most gifted fourth grader, Lucien. Her lover’s wife has just published Murder at Black Swan Point, a true-crime story about the brutal slaying of a young adulteress in a nearby town. Kate herself has become so obsessed with the murder and so convinced that the published account has it all wrong that she sets about writing her own version—this one for children, narrated by Australian animals. Though Lucien’s father brings Kate to life sexually in encounters of escalating eroticism, he cannot dull her obsession. Fixated on the crime of passion, Kate is becoming less and less aware of the present and of how her behavior may align her fate with that of the dead girl. Chloe Hooper chillingly captures this young woman’s unraveling in an intense, witty, superbly crafted novel.
  • Scribner | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743225137 | 
  • April 2003
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide for
by Chloe Hooper

A Child's Book of True Crime is a remarkable first novel by Australian Chloe Hooper. Set in Tasmania, the narrative centers on Kate, a young primary school teacher who is having an affair with Thomas, the father of a precocious student. "Thomas's wife has published a successful book of true crime about the brutal killing of a young adulteress, set in a nearby town. But when Kate's own life begins to resonate with echoes of the infamous local murder, she suspects that her rival's account may be incorrect. Caught between the world of her young students and her very adult life outside the classroom, Kate imagines her own version of the book of true crime, this one written for children but filled with a violence that is unmistakably adult.
Discussion questions
1. As an elementary school teacher, Kate straddles the world of adults and the world of children. How do her personality and behavior reflect this split? How does her version of the Black Swan Point murder story mix the two worlds? Do other characters in the novel have elements of both maturity and childishness?
2. "I liked reading children their stories. And I liked the stories: dogs and cats had magic powers; nasty people suffered slapstick doom. The world seemed manageable, its scale of anarchy to my liking" (p.39). What does Kate's fondness for children's stories illustrate? H see more

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About the Author

Chloe Hooper
Photograph by Susan Gordon-Brown

Chloe Hooper

Chloe Hooper was born in Melbourne in 1973. She was educated at the University of Melbourne and as a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University, New York. Her first novel, A Child’s Book of True Crime, was a New York Times Notable Book and short-listed for the Orange Prize. She lives in Australia.