‘It’s a testament to Brown’s sense of duty of care that Maria James is portrayed as a human being rather than a murder victim … Brown bristles at the notion that Trace could be seen as entertainment.’
‘Brown, with obsessive doggedness, tracks old leads in every direction — and in so doing uncovers viscerally shocking stories of child abuse within the Catholic church … Gripping … She never loses sight of the ongoing cost of murder: the bewilderment and pain in those it leaves behind.’
Jenny McCartney, The Mail on Sunday
‘[If] you devoured Serial or love real-life crime books — especially the unsolved ones — it’ll deliver the goods for you.’
Darragh McManus, Irish Independent
‘[M]oving, enraging and engaging.’
‘There is an irresistible formula to Trace. The bright-eyed investigative journalist teamed with the dogged homicide detective enjoined in the dark art of enquiry — discerning the outline of evidence then calculating the in-between.
The experience of Trace reaches beyond a murder mystery to the interior of the craft — ten parts exhaustion and exasperation to one part excitement and enlightenment.
And there is more. Rachael Brown engages a time-honoured hard dig with a fresh form that welcomes and involves the reader.
This is a special work, a cold case brought to life via the energy of enquiry and, extraordinarily, given its starting point, the redemptive warmth of humanity.’
‘Trace the podcast is a tour de force of investigation and storytelling against the odds. Trace the book is the story behind the story. Compelling listening turned into compulsory reading.’
An outstanding work of long-form audio journalism which crossed platforms, revealing an innate understanding of how audiences would wish to interact with the story.
Judges' comments from the 2017 Walkley Awards
‘The podcast was a hit, and this behind-the-scenes account of her investigation is a detailed, personal and sobering encapsulation of where the case, and those tied to it, currently stand. Trace is both forensic in its investigation and compassionate towards those forever connected to it … Her propulsive narrative and the many unsettling aspects of this still-open case make Trace a standout among true-crime titles.’
‘Brown’s relentless quest for the truth shines through in this book, yet she never compromises the dignity of and respect for Maria James and her family … Trace the book will appeal to fans of the mega-popular Serial and S-Town podcasts from This American Life, that have helped catapult this genre into the mainstream.’
‘Bearing the traces of its origins as a podcast, Trace is a polyphonic narrative about revisiting the cold-case murder of Melbourne bookshop owner Maria James. The consequences of opening old wounds — for James’ sons, for the original detective on the case and for Rachael Brown as she uncovers new evidence and testimony — are central to the slowly mounting tension and urgency of Trace.’
Sydney Morning Herald
‘It is absorbing, and elicits immense respect for the author. Outstanding investigative journalism is not dead.’
Graeme Barrow, Northern Advocate
‘Brown’s excellent podcast has been transformed into an addictive true-crime book that traces the clues, suspects, and devastation left in the wake of Maria James’s 1980 death in the Thornbury bookstore where she worked and lived. With revelations that upend the 1982 inquiry, this is, nearly forty years later, still a nail-biting case.’
Readings ‘Best Crime of 2018’
‘Trace’s narrative style mimics the podcast form itself — it allows Brown to tell Maria’s story (as well as her own) in multiple voices and from multiple perspectives.’
Ellen Cregan, Kill Your Darlings
‘Rachael Brown achieved an Australian first: turning a number one true-crime podcast into a Walkley-shortlisted book. Trace: Who killed Maria James? is a gripping read.’
Astrid Edwards, ABR’s ‘Books of the Year 2018’
‘The power of this investigation lies in how Brown shines a light on injustices.’
Stephanie Van Schilt, Weekend Australian
‘Brown skillfully balances an impartial, investigative tone with a more personal perspective, notably addressing her own fears of reopening old wounds and becoming overly consumed by the case ... Those seeking concrete answers may not be satisfied—but as true crime enthusiasts know, the thrill is in the investigation.’
‘Where did a DNA-saturated quilt go? Could a priest be to blame for the horrific homicide, or not? In real life, even the best investigators in law enforcement and in journalism can’t always neatly tie up cases with a bow. But it sure is hard to put down this cold-case story.’
‘Trace is a brilliant and compelling look into a horrific crime that affected countless lives … Brown’s work enthralls while never forgetting the burden of care.’
Lauren O’Brien, Shelf Awareness