This is the second book to feature Furnivall and Stubbs who were introduced in the fictional portrayal of Amelia Dyer the infamous baby farmer in the first book by Michael Conway, Caversham Lock. In this book the mystery centres who killed a young woman has bled to death in an allotment in Reading. The detectives follow the scarce leads which loosely link to the tale of Sweeny Todd.
I enjoyed this book, the Victorian era being perfectly pitched, with the atmoshphere darkened by the gloomy descriptions of Victorian Reading. The Policemen Furnivall and Stubbs characters are further developed as they try to find out who the woman is and why she was killed helped by the Miss Prentice, a woman who longs to be a proper policewoman aheaad of her time. Along the way there are a number of colourful characters who all appear to have something to hide; in other words a perfect whodunnit.
The only minor criticism I have is at times it did feel as though slightly too much was included which meant that the book lost momentum.
If you enjoy crime novels and are a fan of history you can’t go too far wrong with this book. I will certainly buy the next in the series if Michael Conway will be good enough to write one!
Caversham Lock tells the story of Amelia Dyer one of the most prolific women serial killers of all time. Amelia was a baby farmer in the Victorian era. Michael Conway brings this story to life told through the eyes of the fictional policeman Sergeant Stubbs and Constable Furnivall who are on hand to investigate when a baby’s body is pulled from the water at Caversham Lock.
Having read Amelia Dyer: Angel Maker: The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money it is clear that this book is underpinned by meticulous research however this depressing story is lifted by the engaging relationship between Stubbs and Furnivall. I particularly enjoyed the references to Sergeant Stubb’s roving eye whenever the policemen come into contact with a pretty girl. The language the author uses adds to the atmosphere of Victorian England, both in the style of the writing, and the description of Victorian cities, without being intrusive to the story being told.
The telling a true crime story through a fictional medium can be a bit hit and miss and I was thoroughly impressed with this one; the quality of the writing blended with the known facts of this case gives an immensely readable book. I will definitely be following up on this excellent book by reading Caversham Road
Ameila Dyer – Angel Maker
After reading The Ghost of Lily Painter, a novel that draws upon the arrest and trial of Amelia Sach who was a baby farmer based in Finchley, I wanted to know more about how widespread this practice was.
A shocking story about baby farming in Victorian England
This book relays the life story of Amelia Dyer, born Amelia Hobley in 1838, the youngest of 5 children born to a relatively comfortable family for the times. The events surrounding the deaths of the children are truly horrifying. These children were entrusted to her care, often for  pounds to take full responsibility for the rest of their lives thereby relieving their families of any further involvement. The authors describe how many of these were drugged and starved to death. Amelia appears to have started this career by acting as a midwife who for a fee ensured that babies were stillborn before moving on to placing adverts in papers offering to take care of children for a premium. Amelia plyed her trade, intersperced with time in prison and mental asylums for many years before finally being investigated fully in 1896.
This book also goes some way to explain why single women were persuaded that answering the adverts was the answer to their problems, orphanages would often stipulate that their charges be true orphans and a single woman with a child could not easily find employment and ensure their child was cared for. The lack of money was not helped by an act passed in 1830 which meant a single woman could not claim money for the child’s upkeep from the father.
A sad but informative book about a period of history where real poverty enabled such a foul trade to flourish.
The Ghost of Lily Painter – Caitlin Davies
The ghost of Lily Painter is not a ghost story as such, it is not scary, but it is so much more!
Annie Sweet lives in number 43 Stanley Road, Holloway, a house which she is instantly drawn to with her husband Ben, and daughter Molly. In 1901 Lily Painter along with her sister, father and step-mother had lived in the same house as lodgers of a Police Inspector and his family. Annie starts to look on the 1901 census, initially for family members but with few details to go on looks to see who lived in her house and becomes interested in Lily Painter, wanting to discover what sort of life she would have led.
The book is divided between the past and the present by devices such as Inspector William George writing a journal starting in 1901 detailing his life as an Inspector, his family life and the crimes of some baby farmers. Lily (the ghost) commentates about life as it was for her then, whilst observing the present day occupants of the house she has haunted for many years. We also have Annie Sweet detailing her present life with her daughter and the mounting interest she has in Lily Painter.
There is a lot of historical fact within this book, the named baby farmers who have their part in this story are based upon real people, well researched and smoothly inserted into the story line.
The story depends on more than a little coincidence but that in no way detracted from the immense pleasure I got from reading this book.
I recommend this book to those interested in this history of the 20th Century although there is enough substance in this book that I believe this book would be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good, well written story. I am so pleased I was offered it in return for an honest review by Amazon Vine.