Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some Families Just Can’t Hack It / Antonia Monacelli

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Murder Mystery/Short Story Collection

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

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Antonia Monacelli combines her obsession with genealogy, love of true crime, and appreciation of history into her first novel, Some Families Just Can’t Hack It.

She also claims a fascination with geisha and an addiction to tea and coffee. Antonia resides in Canada with her husband and pets.

You can learn more about the author on her website.


Some Families… is a collection of fictional short stories inspired by real historical murders.


This is an intriguing collection of stories. The author has combined historical fiction and real crime to produce something a little different to the norm. Additional interest is created by the endnotes to each case which describe the background and underlying occurrences – i.e. why a family member would choose to commit such gruesome acts on close relatives. I’ve deliberately kept the descriptions brief because of the way the stories develop.

A Mother’s Love and a Father’s Neck is about Arnell Love, a tragically orphaned boy who’s never been able to get over the events of his mother’s murder and father’s subsequent conviction and hanging.

Carving The Easter Ham is a grim tale of marital abuse, Angelina is repeatedly abused by her husband, Pietro, until she snaps.

The Shattered Window is a sad story about spinster Myrtle and her niece Helen. Myrtle has spent her early adulthood caring for her mother. When she finally releases Myrtle from her commitment, she makes an unusual and tragic decision.

Some Families Just Can’t Hack It is a very grim tale of the large and very poor Nulty family. One of the Nulty children, Tom, is in love and he takes incredibly drastic action to ensure it doesn’t slip away.

By The Light of the Silvery Moon is about how mental illness can affect families. George Vanstone has grown steadily more abusive towards his wife Minnie and family. Again, this has gruesome results.

Personally, I found some of the scenes distressingly graphic. I do not like reading about the detailed murder or abuse of youngsters. This is not to suggest the writing is sensationalized, because it is not. It’s just purely a personal taste.

A downside was the endnotes, although of value, do tend to be repetitive. They often describe the whole story all over again and I found myself skimming through them to learn something new (for example, what happened to the murderer after the events).


Some graphic murder scenes, which may not be to everyone’s taste.

Format/Typo Issues:


Rating: *** Three Stars

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