Tag Archives: true crime

The Good Girls – An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro

The Good Girls - An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro

Title: The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing
Author: Sonia Faleiro
Publisher: Penguin Hamish Hamilton, Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0670088829
Genre: Non-fiction, Gender Studies, True Accounts
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Faleiro had heard about the Badaun killings on Twitter, in the year 2014, as did most of us. It shook her to this extent that she decided to go the village of Katra in the Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh where the death of two teenage girls, who were also cousins, took place. The picture that circulated on social media was that of them hanging from a mango tree, whose memory is etched in so many minds and hearts. Though momentarily forgotten perhaps, it can be conjured in an instant. Between 2014 and 2019, Faleiro interviewed everyone connected with the deaths to produce a story in which there are different perspectives – each struggling to make themselves heard, each hustling for credibility.

Whether it is a cousin who claimed to have seen the girls getting kidnapped by Pappu Yadav, a 19-year old from the neighbouring village. Or whether it was someone else who had claimed to have spotted Pappu with the girls (who are known as Padma and Lalli in the book). Or whether it was the parents and relatives of these girls who didn’t act soon enough, scared that their honour will be at stake. Well, at the end of the day, the truth is that the girls were dead.

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro is not just an investigative book or a “non-fiction novel” as some would seem it to be. It is a chronicle of what women go through in the country on a daily basis, and this isn’t just restricted to one region or is a function of being educated or not. The brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in 2012 is a testament of that fact. The Good Girls is a book that holds no judgement. It is about the facts, and yet Faleiro’s writing is so strong and insightful that you cannot help but feel overwhelmed in most places while reading. The idea that two teenage girls – children really, died before their time. The idea that they could not lead full lives. The idea that we give so much importance to factors such as caste, honour, about how a girl should be and should not be, that we forget to consider life – the very basic essence of life and living.

Sonia Faleiro’s book is about the India that is still struggling with so much – patriarchy, lack of education for women and girls, poverty being the biggest issue (which most , maybe even all politicians turn a blind eye to or very conveniently use it to their advantage), about lack of faith not only in the judiciary system but also in the workings of the police and safety that cannot be trusted, and about the way we treat our women and men at the same time.

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing – just the very title says so much. Something that is so chilling, and yet only so ordinary that it could take place on an almost daily basis (and maybe does) and yet apathy is supreme. Sonia Faleiro also without taking any side goes to the heart of that apathy and indifference through this work that chronicles the brutality, that takes place more on a mental and emotional level. Faleiro’s writing is to the point. All facts and suppositions (that sprung from various narratives) are laid out for the reader. Everything is in plain sight. The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing never lets us forget that at the heart of it – of all that occurred, two teenage girls, two children really, with so much life, and possibility and a future, lost their lives to patriarchy and its machinations.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Margaret Mitchell called Savannah, Georgia “that gently mannered city by the sea” and indeed, with Spanish moss hanging from the huge oak trees and the pale shine of the moon reflecting off the pillars of Savannah’s stately mansions, the imagination can conjure up an idyllic setting where the clop of hooves on the cobblestone streets echo in one’s mind and sweat from the glass of a tasty mint julep leaves a ring on the tabletop.

“You mustn’t be taken in by the moonlight and magnolias. There’s more to Savannah than that. Things can get very murky,” says Jim Williams.

If anyone would know, it’s Williams. He stands at the center of John Berendt’s hugely entertaining account of a city, a murder trial, and the social machinations — high and low — that mesh on the fringes of the politely hushed and multi-layered Savannah society.

An antiques dealer whose parties became the talk of all Savannah, Williams one day finds himself in a lot of trouble…he’s charged with the murder of a young gigolo, Danny Hansford. A part-time employee and house guest of Williams, Hansford had a reputation for his violent temper and his sexual proclivity to service both men and women. Williams claims self-defense and a trial ensues.

Through a complicated mix of legal maneuvers, Williams is tried four separate times for Hansford’s murder, the only man to have achieved that distinction in the Georgia criminal justice system.

As compelling as the murder story and the resulting trial are to Berendt’s tale, it’s the magnificent portrayal of the history of Savannah and the cast of quirky characters that people the city that make MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL so successful.

Besides Williams, we meet Joe Odom, a former lawyer, tour-guide, and piano player, whose charm and talent are only outweighed by his audacious behavior.

Luther Driggers keeps the city on edge. An inventor who failed to get rich after discovering the pesticide and process that led to the flea collar, he now walks the streets with a bevy of flies attached to his person by threads, carrying a vial of poison that he threatens to dump in Savannah’s water supply.

Lady Chablis, a drag queen and performer who takes a shine to Berendt, provides some of the more hilarious moments in the book. And then there’s Minerva, a voodoo high-priestess whom Williams hires to ease his guilt by calming the ghost of the murdered Danny Hansford and to bring what luck she can to his side during his legal troubles.

Yes, this is a book about a murder, but it’s so much more. We can thank Berendt for taking the scenic route through Savannah in the telling. The historical facts, the anecdotes about the rich and eccentric citizens of the city, and the compelling story of the forces — both dark and light — that come together in MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL add up to one wickedly funny, wholly evocative romp of a read.