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Dead by Friday: How lust & greed led to murder in the suburbs - Book Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
Published January 6th 2014
True crime book by Derek Pedley
Dead by Friday

This well researched and compelling true crime book of a gruesome and callous murder proves, once again, that fact can be stranger than fiction; particularly, when the three social misfits responsible for the brutal murder of an innocent mother at times seem like characters from a Tarantino or Cohen brothers movie. Several times I was reminded of Fargo and couldn't help but chuckle over their stupidity and delusional beliefs and behaviour. There were times I couldn't put the book down, while there were other moments when I found it hard to read due to the brutal, pointless, selfish, heartless and unbelievable actions of the perpetrators, who motivated by lust, anger and greed showed a total lack of empathy for others.

Dead by Friday: How lust and greed led to murder in the suburbs by Adelaide journalist, Derek Pedley, is his third true crime book. It was short listed for the Ned Kelly True Crime Award in 2013. Pedley's second book, Australian Outlaw - The True Story of Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott, was short-listed for the Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime in 2007. Outlaw's Story was the title used on the UK edition of Australian Outlaw.

Pedley writes in a straight forward manner, which held my attention, even though I was aware of the outcome. I remember the initial media reports of a mother, Carolyn Matthews, being murdered in the early evening at West Lakes while her husband and three boys were at the local video shop for approximately thirty minutes. That in itself seemed so unlikely. Later as the facts became clearer the media reported the sordid and morbid details of how Michelle Burgess and Kevin Matthews in 2001 hired a contract killer, David Key, to murder their respective spouses, Darren and Carolyn, so they could be together.

This is a very detailed true crime story. Pedley investigated the story over five years utilising interviews with police investigators, witnesses, prison records, families, friends, co-workers, lovers and the spouse of Ms Burgess, Darren, who was intended to be the next murder victim. A large part of the police investigation is written from several points of view with excerpts of text messages, phone calls, interviews and media reports, which some readers may find repetitive. I found it provided me with a better understanding of what police are faced with when investigating a case as complicated as this. I liked how the book didn't conclude with the verdict, but provided a forensic profile from Dr Jack White, an Adelaide forensic psychologist. As Michelle Burgess declined to undertake any psychometric assessment or provide information about herself, a speculative forensic profile was created of her from her known details. I found this particularly interesting reading.

The first few chapters I found challenging to keep up with all the different names of the characters and their background and their connection to the main characters, so I wrote them down. I wondered if I really needed to know the parent's history of the two married couples, Carolyn and Kevin Matthews, Darren and Michelle Burgess. As the story unfolds, I found it was well worth persevering with the names, as it is such a good read as Pedley provides interesting and informative insight into police investigative methods into what was a lengthy investigation for the police to build a strong case for the prosecution. As Sgt. Standing pointed out, "The only detectives who solve murders in 200 pages are paperback detectives. For the rest of us, it's a long, hard slog."

The book does a great job of covering the lead up to a senseless murder, excellent backgrounds on the players involved, the impact upon the immediate families and the methods of investigation. As a study in human dysfunctional behaviour, I am sure it will appeal to not only true crime coterie, but also psychologists and police and allied professions.

Dead by Friday: How lust and greed led to murder in the suburbs is published by Wakefield Press.

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Why? A well researched & written true crime book that is an engaging and informative insight into a police investigation of a brutal and pointless murder.
Phone: 8362 8800
Cost: RRT: $27.95
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