Aussie Book Review: Every Parent’s Nightmare by Belinda Hawkins

every Every Parent’s Nightmare by Belinda Hawkins


Review copy provided by author/ publisher

Allen & Unwin, June 2013

 Synopsis-What would you do if your son was jailed for life in a hellhole of a bulgarian prison for a crime you believe he didn’t commit?

In 2009, young Australian traveller Jock Palfreeman was found guilty of the murder of Andrei Monov, the only son of two people well connected in the Sofia legal fraternity. He claims he went to the defence of Gypsies being attacked by Monov and a bunch of soccer hooligans. The Bulgarians claim it was an act of cold-blooded murder.

In a case of many twists and turns, where vital evidence was kept out of court and crucial witnesses never called, Belinda Hawkins brings to life the legal battle that haunted two shattered families on opposite sides of the globe. She also reminds us of the dangers we all confront when travelling to worlds very different from our own. But it is the attempt by Jock’s father, Dr Simon Palfreeman, to obtain justice for his son and the terrifying emotional cost involved that are at the heart of Every Parent’s Nightmare.

This is the harrowing story of what happens when world’s collide. It is also the powerful and heartbreaking story of one father’s fight to prove his son’s innocence.

 Review- In Every Parent’s Nightmare, Australian journalist Belinda Hawkins meticulously recreates the night that changed young Australian Jock Palfreeman’s night forever and the months and years that have followed that day. In 2009, Jock Palfreeman claimed he tried to help a Gypsie who was being attacked by a bunch of soccer hooligans but the combination of alcohol and gang mentality created chaos and Jock finds himself locked up in a Bulgarian prison accused of stabbing Andrei Monov to his death. Certain it’s all been a big misunderstanding and confident that he will be out of prison swiftly, it’s some time before Jock realises the seriousness of the allegations he faces. Outside the prison walls, the Monov family have summoned a rather large supportive following and the young Australian is being slandered in the media.

It becomes clear early in the story that Hawkins is a talented investigative journalist who has followed many leads and questioned many stakeholders in this case to try to gather as much information as possible. If only the Bulgarian police and legal representatives had done the same. It’s frighteningly frustrating to read how many careless mistakes were made and how people in power can change someone’s life forever. I just can’t believe how much value the legal system put on the group of boys’ statements about the evening when they were so clearly unreliable! I just kept thinking to myself… that would never happen here (in Australia)!

Belinda doesn’t paint Jock as a saint; she provides a holistic perspective on this adventurous young bloke whose strengths are sometimes his greatest weakness. I really empathised for him throughout the story and could relate to his frustration at the bureaucracies he faced. How helpless and disempowered he must have felt at times. And yet he’s a strong guy who tries to make the best of any situation; I enjoyed reading about his antics in prison, how he advocated for fair treatment and stood up for prisoner rights. I could also relate and empathise with Jock’s father Simon, a timid man who faces one of the biggest challenges of his life. Hawkins realistically portrays the range of emotions Simon must have experienced when he learnt his son was locked up in a Bulgarian prison. The ambivalence he initially felt at Jock’s innocence to the strong sense of injustice he feels when he realises that there’s not enough power on his son’s side to ensure he has a fair trial.

Every Parent’s Nightmare is the true story of a young man’s fate on trial in Bulgaria. I experienced so many different emotions reading this story, but the most prominent was frustration and disbelief. It certainly makes me appreciate my home country. Though I love to travel, I can’t say Bulgaria will make it on my bucket list after reading this story!

Overall Rating


“I loved this book!”

Every Parent’s Nightmare can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:


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