‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’ Book Review

Author: Helen Garner

Plot: Garner learns of a murder trail in progress and heads to Canberra to investigate. She is astonished by the nature of the murderer, Anu Singh, and becomes close with the victim’s family.

Although this case described in this book was covered extensively in the Australian media at the time, many are still left with unanswered questions about the motivation behind the murder of Joe Cinque and the inaction of those who could’ve intervened. Some media outlets have described murderer Anu Singh as the ‘spoilt child’ of two doctors, implying that she performed this revolting act against her boyfriend simply to get what she wants, but this book reveals much more.

Singh was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This is indicated by her ability to manipulate and control those close to her and her drive to justify her actions to herself and others no matter how ridiculous. Her official explanation for murdering her boyfriend is because he suggested that ipecac would be good for someone wanting to loose weight. Although she insisted that he buy it for her against his wishes and she frequently used more then the recommended dosage, she frequently blamed Cinque for an undiagnosed muscle ‘condition’ she suffered as a result and had no choice but to kill herself and Joe.

It seems incredible that so many people were aware of this plan, when it would happen and what was happening over the three days it took the drugged Joe Cinque to finally die without someone intervening. Through a combination of people assuming this was the usual melodrama concocted by Singh and the control she held over people (at the time she claimed he beat her and was afraid that he’d be mad when he found she had drugged him), he was left to die while her ‘plans’ to commit suicide seemed to evaporate.

Murderer Anu Singh, as she appears today.

The author has not provided a balanced or unbiased account of the crime or the court case, in part because her requests to interview Singh eventually went unanswered (she initially agreed) and her interviews with her father largely involved him trying to steer the book towards casti

ng Singh in a better light. Instead she describes the emotional journey she goes on meeting the family of Joe Cinque, sharing their grief and anger and searching for understanding of the events and the people who perpetrated them. Given the circumstances this is a worthwhile approach, as the clinical and factual method employed by the courts simply cannot factor in a personality such as Singhs. An outside observer describing her instinctive response to meeting those involved is more valuable for someone looking for meaning behind this tragedy.

In recent years Singh has stayed in the media after choosing to write her law thesis based on her own case and working at a needle exchange in Canberra (remembering she used injections of heroin to murder her boyfriend) and has been reimprisoned for breaching her parole by using drugs herself. Although she claims to have remorse for her actions and ‘misses’ her boyfriend many have noted that she only refers to what she did from an outsiders perspective and her actions don’t reflect her words.

This book is an excellent account of the events and impact of a crime that left so many bewildered and angry. Worth a read.