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For most people, losing a loved one to a violent murder is probably the worst thing we could imagine happening to ourselves or anyone we know. Even thinking about it happening is so terrifying that most people would not let the thought settle on their minds. Of all the worst things that we cannot think about happening to our dear ones, illness, car crash, accident very few people would even think that someone close to them could be a violent heptaphilic killer. After all, that’s the sort of thing that happens in books, and besides we all know our families, don’t we?
It is this unthinkable thing that Alex Sharkey was confronted with in his own life. His brother, Stuart Campbell, committed a violent crime and to make it even worse, if that is possible, it was Campbell’s 15 year-old niece, Danielle Jones who had been a bridesmaid at Campbell’s wedding whom he had become sexually obsessed with and killed.
Sharkey spends the book ricocheting between disections of his upbringin and family, looking at the past with an almost forensic detail to try to find understanding, and his own ever evolving thinking from the day he first hears of his brothers involvement all the way through to his trial and conviction. Sharkey rollercoasters through emotions of fear, confusion, shame and anger, at times wanting to beat his brother and at others calmly helping the police to try and catch him.
Some things that the brothers experienced as children are not that unusual, poverty, a catholic upbrining, findings Dads soft-core porn stash. However there are other things that probably had a deeper impact, their fathers alcoholisim, his brutality towards their mother and his own kids, similar abuse in the extended family, being brought up in a day and age when men were defined by a stocisim which is truely unhealthy.
As a teenager Sharkey had his own brush with the law, and the aimless headonisim of his youth possibly meant that many would have picked the tea-total, good looking Stuart to be the more successful of the two. However decades later Sharkey is living in Paris, having worked at achingly hip magazines and exploring his spirituality. We slowly learn though that in the same time Stuart has been commiting crimes involving young women and girls, which had remained hidden from his family who believe he is jailed for theft, brought on by the poverty he found himself in with a wife and young baby to provide for,
Sharkey does ultimately find some explination as to what stunted his brothers growth so that he ended up chosing a different, darker path. However this in itself does not bring all the closure one would hope, because Campbell, still in jail refuses to tell anyone what he has done with Danielle’s body. So while Sharkey has written a searingly honest examination of family, upbrining, casual daily violence, addiction and the darkenesses that can be hidden from others, a view point which we so seldom hear because of the shame those related to killers feel, we still have to hope that one day he can write a new final chapter to this autobiography and we can lay Danielle to rest.
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niece he killed who had been a bridesmaid at her own wedding.