All Things Bright and Beautiful, by Susan Mitchell

On the one hand, the good people of Adelaide want it to be prosperous and successful as a modern twenty-first century city; on the other, they don’t want anything to change, and they certainly don’t want large influxes of outsiders discovering how wonderful the lifestyle is and coming to live here.

After the contents of a disused bank vault in South Australia’s Snowtown were discovered and the ‘bodies in the barrels’ killings became public knowledge, Adelaide became the focus of much negative publicity, even being labelled by one British tabloid as ‘the murder capital of the world’.

Susan Mitchell, born and raised in Adelaide but no longer resident there, returned to the city for the trial of the suspects, with the intention of writing a feature article. That article grew into this book.

This is not just a book about the body in a barrel killings, or about its subsequent trial, although of course both topics are explored in depth. Mitchell is equally concerned with exploring Adelaide’s physical and social makeup and answering a question which troubles her – how did Adelaide come to be the scene of such crimes?

Mitchell explores this question using a variety of text styles – a little fiction, quotes from court reports, interviews, personal recall and more, which makes the story very personal and also very readable. It also lessens the harsh impact of a story which is throughly chilling.

All Things Bright and Beautiful is not a comfortable book to read – but it is gripping and very well written.

All Things Bright and Beautiful, by Susan Mitchell
Macmillan, 2004