The Killer Next Door by Lindsay Simpson and Sandra Harvey relates the so-call “Granny Killings” of 1989 to 1990, perpetrated by the late-middle-aged pie salesman, John Wayne Glover. The killings of 6 elderly women occurred in the upper-class suburbs of Sydney’s North Shore, and shocked residents with their brutality and senselessness. I had heard of this famous case from a number of other sources, and thought I have a pretty fair understanding of the case. However I picked up this used copy out of curiosity one day, and within three pages I knew I had found a pure true crime gem.
Glover’s method of killing was to bash his victims over the head with a claw hammer, followed by manual strangulation. The book vividly portrays the public’s fear and confusion as the murders come one after the other with the police seemingly impotent to stop them.
There is an excellent and detailed history of Glover’s childhood and early man-hood, something which I had not come across before. There is sympathy and respect when dealing with the deaths of the elderly women. Readers find themselves incensed that this monster was able to prey upon society’s vulnerable members, and yet there is also a sense of the courage of those who were able to fight back against a bigger, meaner attacker.
Due to its age the book is somewhat outdated in terms of its discussion of the serial killer phenomenon. The quotes from Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman at the beginning of every chapter smacks at hero-worship, and do not really add anything to the discussion. The authors try to get behind what motivated Glover to commit such senseless crimes, but his actions defied the contemporary understanding of serial killers.
For example, right up until the end, the “profilers” had convinced police that they were looking for a very young man who lived at home with his parents. Glover was married with children and approaching retirement age.
This book held my rapt attention till the very end, although I would have liked a bit more detail about the trial. Never the less this is a very high standard of true crime writing and a must read for anyone lucky enough to locate a copy. 5 out of 5.
Editor’s note: John Glover was found dead in his prison cell in 2005, having hanged himself. Police in NSW and Victoria (where Glover once lived) believe he could have been responsible for several unsolved murders of older women.