Reading, Writing and Riesling Review

I’d like to thank Carol for this review.

The Blood on My Hands: An Autobiography
by Shannon O’Leary, Colin Mackenzie (Annotations)


Carol – Reading Writing and Riesling‘s review

Apr 28, 16
really liked it

bookshelves: own

Read from April 04 to 28, 2016

My View:
A particularly horrific and grim story of ongoing domestic violence and psychosis that is not addressed in the perpetrator’s lifetime – this is a uncomfortable book to read – imagine what it must have been like to endure? And endure Shannon O’Leary and her family did – the depravity here is unbelievable – if the author hadn’t qualified the read with “autobiography” you would think this was macabre crime fiction.
To enjoy or not to enjoy? No I can’t say I enjoyed this read – the wounds, physical and psychological were open, raw and bleed onto the pages – I could not enjoy. Compelling – yes. An incredible story of courage and survival – yes. Can we learn from the mistakes made here? I think this should be read by all in the agencies working in the field of domestic violence and community health; more education and resources are needed in these areas.

Shannon O’Leary – you must be one amazingly strong woman. Whenever I think life is tough for me, I will recall what you have endured.

Post on Criminal |

Growing up with a Serial Killer

Unfortunately, The Blood on my Hands is a true story.

I spent my childhood in Australia in the 1960s and 70s, and it was not what one would call conventional. While, in most cases, a family is a group of people you can trust and feel comfortable with, mine left me to the will of my father—a serial killer capable of the most horrific and trauma-inducing acts one could possibly imagine. Really, though, I don’t think the average person would be able to imagine what I lived through.

When I wrote The Blood on My Hands, I decided to write it from the perspective of my childhood self. When I finally decided it was time to tell my story, it was for the sake of closure for me and—hopefully—the families of my father’s victims. I sincerely hope that in sharing my experiences, some light may be shed on the whereabouts and stories of the other victims.

The laws in the 1960s and 70s did little to protect those in an abusive situation. Many child abuse cases were swept under the rug, as there were not laws in place to protect children. Domestic violence was prevalent, and wives were expected to do what they were told by their husbands. The Catholic Church frowned upon divorce, and people were scared of social repercussions.

Why do some crimes go unsolved? Why do some serial killers get away with it?

The absence of a body makes it hard to get a conviction.

In my case, my father was very clever, and did his utmost to remain undetected while he continued his brutal activities. Despite his madness, he was methodical and tactical, and he had a number of strategies to ensure he remained unobserved. His property was surrounded by a national park and rugged Australian bush terrain. On his property, which was on the outskirts of Sydney, he set up four industrial meat mincers in dense bushland. The remnants left after he had used these mincers was scattered in the bush for wildlife to take care of. He also had large quantities of lime on the property, and a body or animal buried in this substance disintegrates with time.

My father’s victims were chosen very specifically. He made sure there was a very low likelihood that anyone would come looking for them. Many of these people were teenage runaways, the homeless, and women who were escaping from abusive relationships and needed friendship and a safe house for their children. These people could disappear without anyone realizing they were missing. In fact, when my mother took my siblings and me to try and escape, we lived under a pseudonym, and no one ever bothered to question it or ask for proof of our identity.

In the days before social media and the internet, my father merely needed a plausible alibi to explain his occasional disappearances when family emergencies took place. The abuse that my family and I endured was a daily occurrence, and we put up with it. We didn’t have any idea what a normal family or life was, so how could we compare ours to something better? We lived in constant terror of reprisals of past horrors, and when we tried to disclose what was happening at our property, we were ignored by everyone who could have helped us.

It is doubtful that the identities of the victims will ever be solved when our repeated cries for help were never answered; and as the years have marched on, the more likely it’s become that those injured by my father will remain lost in time.

You must remember that the Australian bush is a vast and rough terrain that is mainly explored by established bush tracks. Venturing into the uncharted terrain is often fraught with difficulties—venomous snakes, cliffs, and an endless sea of trees, which can easily disorient those who do not know the area. It is relatively easy to dump a body in these vast wilderness areas, as walkers do not go off the tracks.

The police investigation remained open until my father died, but without a body, there could be no conviction. My father had committed perfect crimes, and this is why serial killers exist. They prey on the hope that they will never be caught and be brought to justice.

The themes of the book are gruesome and unnerving, and my father’s psychosis is both compelling and disturbing to read. The story that The Blood on my Hands relates is both horrific and chilling, but my family survived and eventually escaped our predator.

I still feel haunted and traumatized by the past, but I am determined not to let it ruin the rest of my life. I still have nightmares and anxiety, but I keep myself busy doing work that I love.

My single greatest hope in sharing my story is that it will help someone else one day—that they will know it is possible to survive, and even thrive in life, once they gather the courage to walk away from their abuser.

Kirkus Review 18/3/16

“The confusion, uncertainty, and sickening foreboding ring true and offer vital insights into the experience of abuse, including the fact that victims had few options, especially in the 1960s.” – Kirkus Reviews

We now live in a world where hopefully people are more aware and communication systems, social media and education are helping to eradicate past wrongs. I have to thank the people I met after my childhood for the support, love. care and guidance they have given me throughout my teenage and adult years. I believe education is the key to understanding and gives one the perspective needed to move on and appreciate life. Trauma is relative to those who suffer it and the situations they experience. Everyone copes in different ways and if you spend your life being angry and hating others, it makes it more difficult move forward, away from the trauma. Love, compassion, empathy, truth and respect from friends and family is the balm to help others to heal. The scars and battles never totally leave you but hopefully good memories will eventually over ride the bad ones.

Part of me is still terrified of repercussions as victims are often judged over their inability to escape violent situations. My adult life has been filled with steep learning curves, wonderful times and also sadness. My greatest joy has been seeing my children grow up. They were happy children and they slept peacefully at night without nightmares. The love and support from those who genuinely love me provides me with stability and strength.

Red City Review



bloodShannon O’Leary’s autobiography The Blood on My Hands is the chronicle of a childhood difficult to believe and grotesque to observe. In a strikingly clean, clear, and direct dictation, O’Leary describes the childhood she endured in Australia, beginning with the equally disturbing roots of her family. O’Leary paints a vivid picture of an abusive father plagued by multiple personalities, many of which sought to harm not only O’Leary but her mother and three siblings. Taking her readers back in time to her traumatic past, O’Leary travels brutally through her most ruinous memories wrought with a murderous father and a terror-stricken mother. From animal slaughter to rape, O’Leary witnesses some of the ugliest humanity has to offer, and boldly proffers these memories to readers likely unfamiliar with such atrocities.

A haunting memoir of tremendous courage amidst extreme cruelty, The Blood on My Hands will grip you hard and will linger in your mind long after you set it down. A childhood such as O’Leary endured is difficult to understand as having been real, and readers will likely spend the majority of their time reading her pages with awe-struck incredulity and bitter outrage. The work is crisp and painfully honest, moving from scene to scene both artfully and factually. Both the mundane and the impossible are treated with equal care, masterfully knitting together the various pieces of O’Leary’s tormented past. The reality of abusive childhoods becomes inescapable in The Blood on My Hands, and its readers will have a difficult time leaving the images it calls forth behind.