Trace: Who Killed Maria James?

Australian crime journalist Rachael Brown's grandparents taught her "questions are a precious way to show care." When Brown discovered seeming contradictions in a cold case that left two brothers without answers for more than three decades, she started asking questions. Brown's inquiry into the brutal murder of Maria James is recounted in Trace, the gripping account of her search for a killer. It's also the name of her acclaimed true-crime podcast, which aired during her investigation, allowing the public to contribute.

Mark and Adam James were boys when their mother was murdered in the home attached to her Melbourne bookshop in June 1980, stabbed 68 times. As Brown pours through old files and the minds of those who worked or had connections to the case, she digs up long-buried horrors. Startling key evidence comes from painful secrets held by those closest to Maria, suggesting either a "huge cock-up" or widespread conspiracy.

Trace is a brilliant and compelling look into a horrific crime that affected countless lives. Brown struggles with the knowledge that reopening such a case takes "haunted people on a rollercoaster ride." It is, indeed, such a ride, emotionally, procedurally and forensically. As the Trace podcast ended without definitive answers, Brown responded to disappointed listeners: "This is not a show, folks. This is someone's death. And I can't invent an ending--it's real-life nonfiction. I want to scream, 'Imagine how the James boys feel?' " Regardless of the ultimate outcome, Brown's work enthralls while never forgetting the burden of care. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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