megan norris, love you to death

Today’s guest post is by stealer of hearts Liz Barr.

A wealthy housewife, engaged in a passionate affair with a no-hoper, pressures him to murder her husband. So intense and death-obsessed is their relationship, she buys them adjoining plots in a cemetery, kissing her lover passionately as the sale is finalised.

In 2010, Australia was riveted by the revelations about Vickie Soteriou’s attempted murder of her husband, Chris. During the lover’s trial, his defence tried to paint the scenario as something out of film noir: the average joe who is putty in the hands of a femme fatale. Justice Coghlan (by far my favourite judge in the criminal jurisdiction, shut up, it is totally normal to have favourite judges) remarked that Mills and Boon might be more likely.

The best true crime seeks to cast light into society’s dark corners. At the very least, it should tell a good story. Love You To Death: A Story of Sex, Betrayal and Murder Gone Wrong, with its suburban intrigue and glimpses into the contemporary Greek-Australian community, tells a good yarn, but we never get to see past the surface.

This is partially an issue of access — while Chris Soteriou and his family were extremely cooperative with the author, his former wife and in-laws have nothing to say at all. Indeed, the victim remains estranged from his teenage daughter. The Soteriou family are understandably bitter about Vickie’s betrayal, which has cast a sinister light over her entire marriage. But Norris seems to accept their accounts without question, reproducing uncritically the misogynistic slurs the family attached to Vickie. Norris claims to have a particular interest in writing about women and children affected by crime, but phrasing like “the evil housewife” owes more to Victorian (the era, not the state) fears about treacherous women and the breakdown of the traditional family.

The sad thing is, this isn’t even necessary. The facts alone demonstrate that Vickie Soteriou was a manipulative narcissist. That she wears knock-off designer products is less interesting than the fact that she threatened her supplier when her sister-in-law started buying from the same woman. Or so the sister-in-law says.

Love You To Death is, in the end, intriguing but shallow. Very late in the piece, Norris casually mentions that the Greek language press in Australia was comparing the business with the great tragedies of ancient Greece. It’s an interesting insight that goes unexplored, another missed opportunity in a book that could have been so much better.

Arrested and charged with the trafficking of books. Charges dismissed after bribing the judge with some new releases. Small. Ginger. Enjoys history, cephalopods and tween media. lizbarr.wordpress.com

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