Tuesday 11 September 2018

Trace: who killed Maria James? by Rachael Brown @RachBrownABC @scribepub Blog Tour #Trace

The whole place seems cold, and he feels a terrible sense of dread. He calls out, but gets no reply. Taking a knife from the cutlery drawer, he unlocks the back door as an escape route. Then he sees her on the floor. Her eyes and mouth are open, and there is blood everywhere. He’s too late.
After a strange phone call with his ex-wife, John James had sensed something was wrong and raced over to her house. As he stood in her bedroom doorway, transfixed by the sight of her body, the killer was almost certainly just a breath away, hiding behind the door. Had John walked in, he could have been the next victim. Instead, he left to call the police. The culprit escaped, taking with him the secret of a shocking murder that has shown no sign of being solved for nearly 40 years ― until now.
Based on the international #1 podcast, Trace re-examines the 1980 murder of Maria James ― the single mother of two sons, one with a disability ― revealing abuse in the Catholic Church, cult activities, and claims of incompetence and corruption at the highest levels. Investigating possible conspiracies and uncovering fresh evidence, Rachael Brown's riveting investigation has won multiple media awards and may lead to the reopening of this chilling case.

Trace: who killed Maria James? by Rachael Brown is published by Scribe on 13 September 2018.

As part of the Blog Tour organised by the publisher, I'm delighted to share an extract from the book here on Random Things today

June 1980
He doesn’t know it yet, but this one will bury its hooks into him. 

He arrives at 736 High Street, Thornbury, with a lot more to prove than the other detectives. This is his first homicide case. Ron Iddles takes mental photographs of the crime scene.  
Click. The front window: every square inch plastered with book jackets. Click. Bookshop interior: shelves upon shelves of second-hand books.  
Click. Lounge: two empty coffee cups on a table. Another small table with a broken leg. Click. Kitchen: chopping board on a counter. Beside it, a dirty footprint. Nearby, an open cutlery-drawer.  
Click. Bedroom one: a red rotary-dial telephone, the receiver out of its cradle. A turntable with a pile of LPs, the majority of them Elvis.  
Click. Bedroom two, across the passage: the victim, female, at the base of a bed, head closest to the door, legs pointing towards a wardrobe. 
Right leg bent at the knee, right calf and foot pointing outwards. The victim’s shoes have been kicked or taken off. Multiple stab wounds, to the chest, neck, and back. Hands tied with twine. No apparent bruising on the wrists. One pillow at the victim’s head, and another at her feet. Heavy blood stains on the carpet and on a corner of a bed quilt. Some smearing further along the carpet, and on the wardrobe. A lock on the back of the bedroom door. 

Ron Iddles is 100 per cent certain of two things. The killer is someone the victim knew and was originally comfortable with. Frenzied attacks usually point to a relationship—possibly an intimate one, but definitely some kind of connection. The coffee cups, too, back up this theory. 

This end to Maria James’s life is the start of Ron Iddles’ dream job. He’s waited for this break since he was a boy rushing through his milking and hay-carting chores on his parents’ dairy farm in Victoria’s north-west so he’d be in time for Homicide. 
He used to sit glued to the 1960s TV series, in awe of actors John Fegan and Leonard Teale, who would march down the steps of Victoria’s Russell Street police headquarters in their pork-pie hats and proceed to solve cases every week in under an hour. If it wasn’t Homicide, it was Columbo, the seemingly forgetful but cunning American TV detective. From him, adult Ron has borrowed his trademark crumpled jacket. He’s bought himself a London Fog overcoat, so through all the dark nights to come, Ron will be the one in off-white amid a sea of black and blue. 

He cut his teeth on the mean beat of Collingwood, where the only people who moved after 1.00am were crooks, police, and prostitutes. Here, as a green 19-year-old, he took on the feared members of the Painters and Dockers Union. And he drew a line that would come to define the rest of his decorated career, shooing away a bribe from a local justice of the peace to ‘fix something up’. Compassion would later bud in various shades of grey, but in terms of duty, his world has been black and white from the get-go. 

Now a plucky 25-year-old, Ron has a lot riding on this homicide job. The core crew members are his boss, Senior Sergeant Brian McCarthy, then Sergeant Jack Jacobs, Senior Constable Roland Legg, and himself, Detective Senior Constable Ron Iddles. R. Iddles. Riddles—a befitting name for a mystery-solver. For now, his job is to find out who killed Maria James.

Rachael Brown has won numerous awards as an Australian broadcast journalist. 
She was the creator, investigator, and host of the Australian Broadcasting Company's first true-crime podcast, Trace, which won three national awards. 
She lives in Melbourne

Twitter @RachBrownABC

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