The riveting inside story of a journalist’s cold-case investigation of a shocking murder.
Every cop has a case that dug its claws in and would not let go. For veteran detective Ron Iddles, it was his very first homicide case — the 1980 murder of single mother Maria James in the back of her Melbourne bookshop. He never managed to solve it, and it still grates like hell.
Maria’s two sons, Mark and Adam, have lived in a holding pattern longer than Rachael Brown has been alive. When the investigative journalist learned that a crucial witness’s evidence had never seen daylight, the case would start to consume her — just as it had the detective nearly four decades prior — so she asked for his blessing, and that of the James brothers, to review Maria's case.
In her exhaustive and exhausting 16-month investigation for the ABC podcast Trace, Rachael reviewed initial suspects, found one of her own, and uncovered devastating revelations about a forensic bungle and possible conspiracies that have inspired the coroner to consider holding a new inquest.
This is a mesmerising account, as Rachael traces back through her investigation — one that blew the dust off a 38-year-old cold case, gave a voice to the forgotten and the abused, and could have serious implications for two of the state’s most powerful institutions.
About the Author
Rachael Brown is a broadcast journalist. In 2002, after graduating from RMIT, she began her career with the ABC, where she has held several postings, including Europe correspondent from 2010 to 2013. In 2008, she won her first Walkley Award, for Best Radio Current Affairs Report. Rachael was the creator, investigator, and host of the ABC's first true-crime podcast, Trace, which won the 2017 Walkley Award for Innovation. The podcast also won two 2017 Quill Awards: for Innovation, and for Best Podcast. Rachael lives in Melbourne, Victoria.
`What grit, what faithfulness! It's enthralling to track Brown's stubborn little lantern as she forges into these dark forests.' -Helen Garner, author of The Spare Room and Everywhere I Look
`You may know her from the Trace podcast but the book is meritorious on its own - excellently written. Gripping but not exploitative or gratuitous like poorly-handled true crime can be. I find myself taking notes of lines and expressions, and I definitely resent having to put it down!' -Bri Lee, author of Eggshell Skull
`Bearing the traces of its origins as a podcast, Trace is a polyphonic narrative about revisiting the cold-case murder of Melbourne bookshop owner Maria James. The consequences of opening old wounds - for James' sons, for the original detective on the case and for Rachael Brown as she uncovers new evidence and testimony - are central to the slowly mounting tension and urgency of Trace.' -Sydney Morning Herald
`Trace the podcast is a tour de force of investigation and storytelling against the odds. Trace the book is the story behind the story. Compelling listening turned into compulsory reading.' -Andrew Rule
`There is an irresistible formula to Trace. The bright-eyed investigative journalist teamed with the dogged homicide detective enjoined in the dark art of enquiry - discerning the outline of evidence then calculating the in-between.
The experience of Trace reaches beyond a murder mystery to the interior of the craft - ten parts exhaustion and exasperation to one part excitement and enlightenment.
And there is more. Rachael Brown engages a time-honoured hard dig with a fresh form that welcomes and involves the reader.
This is a special work, a cold case brought to life via the energy of enquiry and, extraordinarily, given its starting point, the redemptive warmth of humanity.' -Chris Masters
`The podcast was a hit, and this behind-the-scenes account of her investigation is a detailed, personal and sobering encapsulation of where the case, and those tied to it, currently stand. Trace is both forensic in its investigation and compassionate towards those forever connected to it ... Her propulsive narrative and the many unsettling aspects of this still-open case make Trace a standout among true-crime titles.' -Books+Publishing
`It's a testament to Brown's sense of duty of care that Maria James is portrayed as a human being rather than a murder victim ... Brown bristles at the notion that Trace could be seen as entertainment.' -The Guardian
`An outstanding work of long-form audio journalism which crossed platforms, revealing an innate understanding of how audiences would wish to interact with the story.' -Judges' comments from the 2017 Walkley Awards
`A must-read.' -Elle
`Brown's relentless quest for the truth shines through in this book, yet she never compromises the dignity of and respect for Maria James and her family ... Trace the book will appeal to fans of the mega-popular Serial and S-Town podcasts from This American Life, that have helped catapult this genre into the mainstream.' -Readings
`Gripping.' -Newcastle Herald