Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Outcast Dead – Elly Griffiths

Crime Fiction 5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

The Outcast Dead features a fictional baby-farmer, made more gruesome by the addition of a hook to replace her missing hand.  Mother Hook as she was known after her death was tried, found guilty and executed for killing children in her care so the discovery of a body, which could be this infamous woman, real name Jemima Green during a dig at Norwich Castle prompts the TV series Women Who Kill to turn up to film ‘the discovery.’ Phil, Ruth’s boss at the University is keen to take part as the archaeology team work on identification of the remains.

800px-Norwich_castle

Norwich Castle

Meanwhile DCI Nelson is plunged into the worst kind of investigation, an investigation into a mother whose third child has just died.  Nelson is cautious of her innocence but equally anxious not to upset the bereaved mother when he is plunged into the disappearance of a young child and he race against time to find her before it is too late.

I have only read the first in this series (The Crossing Places) featuring Ruth Galloway, something I must rectify as I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed reading about Ellie Griffith’s unglamorous forensic archaeologist, so fortunately I got the references to the death of Scarlet Henderson which still haunts Nelson but this was easy to read as a stand-alone in its own right.  Ruth is a real woman who clearly adores her daughter but also loves her job and is passionate about recording all that she can discover of the bones that she discovers.  She is pragmatic about her Phil’s vanity and there are some delightfully catty asides aimed at him.  She is delighted to explain her work to a wider audience whilst not enjoying being the focus of attention during filming.

Although the writing style (in the present tense) does take some getting used to I soon managed to immerse myself in this book, the wonderful imagery, tense relationships and a genuinely gripping plot which is fast paced. The reason why these books work for me is that there are a myriad of relationships that underpin the crimes being investigated.

Quercus were kind enough to allow me an ARC in return for this review which has paid off for them as I have already purchased Dying Fall to listen to on audio! The Outcast Dead was published on 6 February 2014.

Girls who got pregnant in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century had few options if marriage wasn’t an option, particularly if they weren’t living in rural areas where the children could be passed to members of the immediate or extended family.  One of the more favourable options was to give their child to one of the woman who were known disparagingly as baby-farmers.  These women were paid to take care of the child.  If the payment was made as a lump sum the less scrupulous in the profession weren’t averse to hastening an infant’s death, often using opiate based medicines which quietened the child at the same time, thereby making more room and another lump sum.

Read my reviews of some other books that feature baby-farmer’s here:

The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies a fictional account that features Amelia Sach who plied her trade in Finchley

The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money by Alison Rattle is a non-fiction account of the baby-farmer Amelia Dyer

Caversham Lock by Michael Stewert Conway is a fictional account featuring Amelia Dyer

The Outcast Dead – Amazon UK

 

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (January 31)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

Well… I have lots more finds this week to add to my TBR so I have decided that I will need to invoke a resolution for February and stop acquiring new books at a faster rate than I can read them (that should leave a little room for manoeuvre)

First up this week is  The Lady kindly sent to me, and signed, by the author Judy Higgins after I commented on her interview celebrating her debut novel  BOOKTALK WITH EILEEN

The Lady

Blurb

South Georgia, 1956.
When sixteen-year-old Quincy Bruce goes to live with her Aunt Addy, she has no idea that what happened thirteen years earlier in wartime London can destroy her future. Her parents have gone to Africa as missionaries, leaving Quincy with her free-spirited and lively aunt, a war widow, and the only person who supports Quincy’s ambition to become a musician. When another aunt accuses Addy of having been the inspiration for the adulterous woman in Nathan Waterstone’s infamous wartime novel, The Lady, Quincy vows to prove her wrong. As Quincy settles into her new life with Addy, she sets about unraveling the secrets of Addy’s life, and of Nathan’s, in an effort to discover the true identity of the Lady. When she makes a discovery of a different type, Quincy’s dreams of becoming a pianist come crashing down.

Eileen is a wonderful fellow blogger, we have had off-line conversations about where we live, have visited etc. and has a wide range of authors visiting her blog. This book particularly caught my attention because of the historical mystery.
The author Judy Higgins gave some really good answers to Eileen’s questions which gives more of a hint about some of the themes in this book so I am really looking forward to seeing what this book has in store for poor Quincy.

I treated myself (yes I know!) to The Liar’s Diary by Patry Francis which was published in 2007, so this is a real book too!  I have a little confession in that I have been campaigning for a new bookcase for some time and piling up real books serves two purposes – the good news is we went and looked in the furniture shop last week….

The Liar's Diary

Blurb

A seductive psychological thriller about a woman facing the dark truths at the heart of her family Jeanne Cross’s contented suburban life gets a jolt of energy from the arrival of Ali Mather, the stunning new music teacher at the local high school. With a magnetic personality and looks to match, Ali draws attention from all quarters, including Jeanne’s husband and son. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a deep friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities and long-held secrets that Ali has been recording in her diary. The diary also holds a key to something darker: Ali’s suspicion that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. Soon their friendship will be shattered by violence-and Jeanne will find herself facing impossible choices in order to protect the people she loves Goodreads

In addition FictionFan wrote another great review, this one is for The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths which not only features a fictional baby farmer but her body was found at Norwich Castle which I visited soon after my son started university there!

Another aside, Norwich Castle is the place to go for the most random collection of teapots you are ever likely to encounter, they have over 3,000 teapots there!

Back to the book I went and looked at Quercus the publishers on NetGalley and bagged myself a copy.  This wasn’t sensible as I haven’t read all of the series so I am now going to read out of sequence too!

The Outcast Dead

I suggest you read FictionFan’s review

Blurb

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has excavated a body from the  grounds of Norwich Castle, a forbidding edifice that was once a prison.
She believes the body may be that of infamous Victorian murderess Jemima  Green. Called Mother Hook for her claw-like hand, Jemima was hanged in  1867 for the murder of five children in her care.
DCI Harry Nelson  has no time for long-dead killers. Immersed in the case of three infants found dead, one after the other, in their King’s Lynn home, he’s  convinced that a family member is responsible, though others on his team think differently.
Then a child goes missing. Could the abduction  be linked to the long-dead Mother Hook? Ruth is pulled into the case,  and back towards Nelson. NetGalley

And finally to my favourite of this week! I spotted a piece on this book in the Mail Online (I do like to read the comments posted but rarely do you find articles about books) Murder Houses of London by Jan Bondeson which will look perfect next to my A Very British Murder and Silent Witnesses books don’t you think?

Murder Houses of London
Blurb

In that stately Fitzrovia house, the butler was murdered by a disgruntled pantry-boy; in that one, a king s housekeeper lost her life. In that Kensington flat, a demented playboy murdered a prostitute for kicks; in that Gloucester Road basement, Acid Bath Haigh was busy digesting the bodies of his victims. In those two elegant Chelsea houses, located in peaceful garden squares, a clergyman and his housekeeper were brutally done to death in 1870. In that peaceful little house, not far from Camden Road Station, a woman murdered her rival, dismembered the body, and disposed of it using an old-fashioned perambulator. In that peaceful pub near the Thames, the landlady was murdered in 1920, and the killer was never found. In one Islington house, George Joseph Smith disposed of one of his Brides in the Bath; in another, Annie Walters, the notorious baby-farmer, was plying her deadly trade; in a third, a brilliant playwright was brutally murdered by his homosexual lover. This book deals with Central London s architecture of capital crime: houses inside which celebrated murders have been committed. Pursue Lord Lucan as he escapes from his elegant Belgravia house, leaving the dead nanny in the basement; prowl the Soho streets once haunted by an elusive serial killer; and follow in the murderous footsteps of the Blackout Ripper and the serial killer Patrick Mackay. And read about London s many forgotten murders, where only the murder houses remain to tell a tale. Goodreads

This was a gift from my OH who after seeing my tweet, treated me (a bit of a tongue twister there) and it arrived today. Looking at the introduction this is the first of two planned volumes, covering seven areas of London. It has some wonderful pictures from the contemporary media as well as pictures of the houses still standing where these historical murders took place. This is another book that features a baby-farmer too!

What have you all found this week?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Caversham Lock – Michael Stewart Conway

Historical Crime 5*'s
Historical Crime
5*’s

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
Caversham Lock

Historical Crime 5*'s
Historical Crime
5*’s

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.
Amelia Dyer: The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Ghost of Lily Painter – Caitlin Davies

Historical Fiction 5*'s
Historical Fiction
5*’s

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.

Read my review of Amelia Dyer – The Angel Maker

The Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money: The Story of Amelia DyerThe Woman Who Murdered Babies for Money: The Story of Amelia Dyer by Alison Rattle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

View all my reviews