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BOOKED OUT!!!The secret life of a crime scene cleaner

March 15, 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Sisters in Crime Australia and the Port Phillip Library Service present …
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Sarah Krasnostein speaks to Ruth Wykes about Sandra Pankhurst who for 20 years has cleaned houses in which people have died – sometimes violently, sometimes through drugs and, very often, alone.

mid shot Sarah KrasnosteinKrasnostein’s debut book, The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay and Disaster (Text Publishing),took out top honours at the 2018 Victorian Premier’s literary awards on 1 February, winning the  $100,000 Victorian prize for literature and the $25,000 category prize for nonfiction. She is also  shortlisted for the  2018 Indie Book Award for Non-fiction. The winner will be announced on 26 March.

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband, father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife … but as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less. Pankhurst also cleans houses for people who have left them untended for so long they are barely habitable, such neglect often the result of mental illness. She cleans houses for people who are ’textbook‘ hoarders, unable to throw away the piles of rubbish that threaten to bury them. But Pankhurst doesn’t just clean for them – she listens to them with genuine compassion and without judgment, talks to them as whole people who have a place in the world and who deserve care, and creates order in their houses. She rights their environment, finding satisfaction in her perfectionism and its results.

Krasnostein is a law lecturer and researcher who divides her time between Melbourne and New York.

Ruth Wykes is co-author of two true crime collections: Women Who Kill, written with Lindy Cameron in 2011, and Invisible Women: Powerful and Disturbing Stories of Murdered Sex Workers (Bonnier Publishing Australia), written with Kylie Fox in 2016. Their second book, Impact: The Ripple Effect of Murder is due out with Clan Destine Press in April. In 2016 she won the Scarlet Stiletto First Prize and Great Film Idea Award for her short story, ‘Stone Cold’.

Click here for Ruth Wykes’ review.


St Kilda Library, 150 Carlisle Street, St Kilda
All welcome; complimentary tea and coffee

This is a free event, but RSVP by Thursday 13 March through Eventbrite or ring 03 9209 6655

Sun Bookshop stall
Members receive a 10% discount

Additional information
Carmel Shute 0412 569 356


St Kilda Library
150 Carlisle Street
StKilda, VIc 3182 Australia
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03 9209 6655
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