Review: The Blood on My Hands by Shannon O’Leary

The Blood on My Hands by Shannon O'Leary

Here comes a book that’s frightening, shocking, gripping and more – the worst part, though, is that it’s non-fiction. The Blood on My Hands is an autobiography written by Shannon O’Leary, daughter of a serial killer. Here’s what it’s about:


Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.

The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.

The Blood on My Hands is a heartbreaking—yet riveting—narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.


What I say:

I’m writing this review with an extremely heavy heart because I felt so connected to the O’Leary’s – their torment, their trauma and their silent cries and pleas for help. I have to admit that after reading each chapter, I needed to do something else to distract myself from feeling sad because of what I had just read.

Shannon O’Leary recounts the memories of her childhood as well as giving a very detailed account of her mother and father’s family background – I quickly knew who was who and why they ended up where they were. Patrick O’Leary, her father, married Emma and they had three children; Michael, Shannon, Liam and , all of which were scared into submission whenever Patrick was in one of his moods.

There are moments in this book where I could do nothing but put my hand over my mouth as I read about Patrick’s mind-games, physical, sexual and verbal abuse, and more towards his family. And then when he had committed one of the worst crimes capable, those who witnessed it were so traumatised that they pretended as if it never happened. It was extremely evident that he had severe mental health problems, but as it was the 60s, there wasn’t much in the way of diagnoses or treatments for him. But more than that, though,

I was deeply shocked and horrified by the reaction of the police, neighbours and family who would either refuse to help or told Emma O’Leary, to live her married life and, in essence, get on with it.

It’s difficult to say I enjoyed or disliked this book because with every revelation of atrocity, I remembered this actually happened. It’s certainly a page-turner, but that’s more to do with not being able to believe what a family had endured – it’s truly awful.

I thought it was a bit abrupt in how it jumped from place to place, and then how it ended, but I suppose that’s down to everything the family were subject to. It’s a moment-by-moment account of torture and, as if often the case, Shannon has to describe another incident or scenario so that you fully understand the other incidents.

I empathise with everyone in this book for obvious reasons. I had wished that on the last page it read ‘and then we woke up’, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I was engrossed, surprised and upset for everyone because society had failed them miserably. Nonetheless, this book had me gripped – I just wish I could’ve said it was because of the author’s imagination.


Where to buy

Grab your copy of The Blood on My Hands on Amazon UK | Amazon US


Continue Reading