23 December 2019

Review: The Arsonist - A Mind on Fire by Chloe Hooper

The Arsonist - A Mind on Fire by Chloe Hooper audio cover
I've been enjoying a number of true crime podcasts this year and have very recently made the transition to audiobook. At this stage I can only listen to non fiction as my mind seems to wander when listening to anything else. I began listening to this audiobook during Non Fiction November but didn't finish it in time to qualify for the challenge.

Published last year, The Arsonist - A Mind on Fire by Australian author Chloe Hooper is the non fiction account of the Black Saturday fires in the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland. Hooper shines her spotlight on the deliberately lit Churchill fires that killed 10 people and destroyed 150 homes in February 2009.

Hooper investigates the fire and provides insight into the victims and survivors and their community. She covers the search for the arsonist and the identification and subsequent arrest of a suspect.

Investigators immediately noticed Brendan Sokaluk's behaviour was unusual. A former CFA volunteer, Sokaluk seemed slow to understand questions and his answers were incredibly simplistic. It was initially feared Sokaluk was acting in order to mislead Police, however it was later determined he was mildly autistic and intellectually disabled.

Sokaluk's trial is covered in great detail while Hooper also delves into his upbringing and background. Sokaluk claims he accidentally started the fire and didn't mean to hurt anyone but the truth isn't clear.

Brendan Sokaluk was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to 17 years and 9 months for his crime, making him Victoria's worst mass killer. There was no sense of justice or jubilation in the sentencing of the bad guy here and instead I just felt an overall sadness for the entire situation; particularly for the victims and survivors.

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper is recommended reading for those interested in the nature of bushfires in Australia and the toll arsonists inflict when they intentionally set fires in rural areas. Unfortunately this is happening again right now.

My Rating:
★ ★

Would you like to comment?

  1. I’m definitely going to read this next year!

    1. Thanks Shelleyrae, I hope you do. I'd be keen to hear your take on it, given how much true crime you read and the fact that this is quite different.


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