Book Review: Unmaking a Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna-Jane Cheney by Graham Archer

A look into the Anna-Jane Cheney murder case. Cheney was an Adelaide lawyer murdered in the 1990s. Her fiancé, Henry Keogh, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, only to be released and have the charges dropped 21 years later.

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Unmaking a Murder is a book that presents the trials and tribulations that follows the victims and perpetrators of the Anna-Jane Cheney murder case. It was presumed that Adelaide lawyer Anna-Jane Cheney was murdered by her fiancé Henry Keogh in 1994. The events that followed continuously put Keogh in a bad light, and ultimately led to him being convicted to life imprisonment.

The book examines why those convictions were wrong. Keogh served 21 years of his 25-year sentence before having it quashed, despite there not being enough forensic evidence to convict him in the first place. Archer began writing the book in 2011, having following the case since the 1990s. It was while he was putting pen to paper that the case entered an appeal in 2014. In November of 2015, the case was dropped and Keogh became a free man.

I had no previous knowledge of the case and did not witness the extensive media coverage at the time. Having said that, this book is the perfect companion to every event (no matter how small) that was associated with the case. Covering the events in the months and years post-murder, Archer leaves out zero details of court hearings, witness statements, government records, and forensic investigation. The book informs the reader of every necessary remark or observation.

The style in which Archer penned the book is extremely easy to read. Adopting an almost narrative style, the book is in chronological order of the events, and humanises each of the family members, police officers, academics, and Henry Keogh himself. By doing so, this pushes the reader to feel empathy, to question the reports and the reactions of the witnesses. I consistently found myself questioning my own judgement and was astonished to discover the corruption within the city of Adelaide. Though this murder took place in the 1990s, the concepts behind the motivations are not lost on society today.

This book has rejuvenated the case, and hopefully will make the public aware of what could be happening behind closed doors. As Archer states: “This book does not present a legal analysis… I have nothing beyond court transcripts to rely on… My interest in this case has focused on the adequacy of our justice system and the right of everyone, regardless or guilt or innocence, to a scrupulously fair trial.”

While the job of a reviewer does not including offering an opinion on court findings, my opinion of this book is that it is a brilliant recollection of the Cheney-Keogh ordeal.

Reviewed by Phoebe Christofi
Twitter: @ChristofiPhoebe

Rating out of 10:  8

Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: August 2017
RRP: $34.99 trade paperback

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