Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Conan Doyle for the Defence – Margalit Fox


Conan Doyle for the Defence was a real treat for someone who loves historical true crime and into the bargain I got to know a little more about the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

The true crime is the brutal murder of Marion Gilchrist. A wealthy elderly spinster who lived in a secure apartment, almost paranoid about her precious jewels being stolen. She was pretty much estranged from most of her family and lived with her maid Helen Lambie in a tightly organised fashion as you’d expect from a woman of her class. On 21 December 1908 Helen Lambie left the house to buy the paper and by the time she returned a little more than ten minutes later, her employer was dead. Fortunately Helen, along with the downstairs neighbour had caught a passing glimpse of the murderer and she was also able to identify a missing diamond crescent-shaped brooch.

The police were involved and from the passing of time it is clear to see that the man they pursued, a Jewish man called Oscar Slater, was done for all the wrong reasons. Margalit Fox takes us through the anti-Semitic sentiment of the times and the fear of those immoral trades which Oscar also seemed to be caught up in.

The author also treats us to an explanation of how easy it is to identify the wrong man, especially if the police kindly give some clues as to who they think is the perpetrator of a crime.

To cut a long, but interesting story short, Oscar Slater is convicted of murder and Conan Doyle became interested in the case, but equally interestingly, he didn’t rate the man himself. The author then draws parallels between Conan Doyle’s work as a doctor and the skills needed to solve a crime. Working back from what is known, the symptoms or the body through the absolute facts. Something that didn’t happen with the police work carried out in Glasgow when Marion Gilchrist’s body was found! There are also parallels between Conon Doyle’s deductive skills (I’m not going to mention the lengthy explanation on how he actually practiced abduction) and those of his fictional detective which the author ascribes to his mentor at medical school who used his own keen observations to work out a person’s profession, address and other details from the mud on his shoe or the amount of lint on his hat.

I was absolutely fascinated by this read, there was a lot of information and one couldn’t help but wonder how Oscar coped with nearly two decades of being in Petershead prison with his family far away in Germany. When you consider he had no correspondence with them for the entirety of the WWI his fortitude is even more astounding.

Of course any book of this nature can if care is not taken to take an incredulous tone, it is after all easy to be wise at this distance of time, but the author did keep any such observations relevant to the time of the crime, relaying the disquiet of the wider public once the initial hysteria had died down. All in all this was a sad episode in criminal justice and it is thanks to Conan Doyle that the case was re-examined. Interestingly Oscar Slater was one of the reasons that the appeals court was set up. One of many, many interesting facts I learnt from Margalit Fox!

I’d like to thank the publishers Profile Books for allowing me to read an advance copy of Conan Doyle for the Defence which was published on 21 June 2018.

First Published UK: 21 June 2018
Publisher: Profile Books
No of Pages: 344
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (February 11)

This Week on the Blog

8 February 2018 was one of those popular publication days and I had three books read and reviewed in time: the first, The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner featured last week so this week started with my review for The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths, the tenth in the Dr Ruth Galloway series.

On Tuesday my excerpt post was even more popular than usual featuring Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan which will be published on 1 March 2018. I guess my readers are as nostalgic as I am over their childhood reads.

This Week in Books featured the authors: Camilla Läckberg, Adele Parks and Claire Dyer.

My last review for the big publication day on 8 February was the extraordinary and fiendish puzzle that was The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Thank you to everyone who left such kind comments about my description of this book, they all made my day.

On Friday I posted my review for one of my own books, Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase which I adored especially as the dual time line device had an equally riveting story running in the past and the present.

My week was rounded off by The Bookish Naughty List tag which was great fun to participate in.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie. I was introduced to this book by blogger Joanne from Portobello Book Blog who lives in Portobello where the book is set.

Shona McIver was raped and murdered over thirty years ago, she was just thirteen years old Her brother Tom and her family moved to South Africa following the shocking crime in in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Her best friend Sarah remained in Portobello but what happened left a long shadow over both of their lives. I adore books that link the past and the present and the scenes in 1970s Portobello were superbly drawn.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover.



More than 30 years after 13-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

“Shona had been gone for so long but the memories still came unexpectedly, sometimes like a video from the past, sometimes distorted dreams, but she was always there.”

When modern DNA evidence shows that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona? Sarah and Tom are caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and suspicions fall on family and friends. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears. Dark secrets from the past are uncovered, and there is another death, before the identity of the real killer is finally revealed…

Set in Edinburgh, the Outer Hebrides and South Africa, Sewing the Shadows Together is a thoroughly modern murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing to the end. Filled with characters who could easily be friends, family or people we work with, it asks the question:

Do we ever really know the people closest to us? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

As always, the wonderful reviews posted by bloggers had me requesting a book that would have otherwise passed me by; Only Child by Rhiannon Navin was also published on 8 February 2018,  As you can see I’m weak-willed and the early reviews turned my head and am I alone in thinking the cover doesn’t seem to match the synopsis?


“We went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home . . .” Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives. In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated.

Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing. Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can. NetGalley

I’ve also been lucky enough to receive a copy of Conan Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox which will be published on 28 June 2018.


Just before Christmas 1908, Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy 82-year-old spinster, was found bludgeoned to death in her Glasgow home. A valuable diamond brooch was missing, and police soon fastened on a suspect – Oscar Slater, a Jewish immigrant who was rumoured to have a disreputable character. Slater had an alibi, but was nonetheless convicted and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment in the notorious Peterhead Prison.

Seventeen years later, a convict called William Gordon was released from Peterhead. Concealed in a false tooth was a message, addressed to the only man Slater thought could help him – Arthur Conan Doyle. Always a champion of the downtrodden, Conan Doyle turned his formidable talents to freeing Slater, deploying a forensic mind worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

Drawing from original sources including Oscar Slater’s prison letters, this is Margalit Fox’s vivid and compelling account of one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in Scottish history. NetGalley

So what do you think? Either of these take your fancy?


Since my last post I have only had time to read 2 books and since I have gained 2 my TBR remains steady at 186

Physical Books – 106
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –26


I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m still in credit!