Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Gallery of Poisoners – Adrian Vincent

Non-Fiction 4*s
Non-Fiction
4*s

Well this collection of thirteen poisoners was a good way to round off a year that has seen me fascinated with the poisoner. Adrian Vincent has found a selection of those who chose poison as a way of getting rid of unwanted people in the UK and the US. This book was originally published in 1993 but has recently been republished by Endeavour Press.

Many of my favourites, including Florence Maybrick are included along with some that I hadn’t come across before. Each murderer, or more accurately suspected murderer is given a short chapter that goes into varying amounts of detail of their crime and punishment.

In order of appearance the poisoners featured are:

Frederick Seddon (1912)
Tillie Gburek (1921 USA)
Everitt Applegate and Mary Creighton (1936 USA)
Mrs Florence Maybrick (1889)
Jean Pierre Vaquier (1924)
Graham Young (1972)
Adeline Bartlett (1886)
Roland Molineux (1889 USA)
Harold Greenwood (1929)
Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (1910)
Mary Ann Cotton (1873)
Madeline Smith (1857)
Nurse Waddingham (1936)

The author mentions famous expert witnesses, my favourite Bernard Spilsbury appears three of the trials and he also lists the crown prosecutor, the defence counsel and the judge in many of the trials. Sometimes an attorney who appears as junior counsel in one trial is promoted to become chief counsel at a later date, all of which a poisoner nerd like myself found fascinating. It’s like following these men through their careers as an aside to the individual crimes most of which were committed for love or money.

The author has a somewhat off-hand but insightful tone which I have to confess made me smile more than once, as illustration I am using his insight into Jean Pierre Vaquier, a new-to-me poisoner who struck in 1924 in Byfleet Surrey at the local tavern, the Blue Anchor.

Jean Pierre visits a chemist in London for strychnine which he claimed was for his wireless experiments:

‘But you will have to sign the poison book’
Vaquier signed the book J. Wanker, an odd choice for a false name. But it raised no eyebrows from Mr Bland, who gave Vaquier the strychnine without further comment.

Poor Mr Jones was found to have died of strychnine poisoning and Dr Carle informed the police. Our esteemed author summed up the questioning of Vaquier:

At this stage did Vaquier become alarmed by the questioning the police were taking? Not in the slightest. Finding himself in the limelight, Vaquier blossomed like a well-watered flower, happily posing for the photographers when he left the police station.

Adrian Vincent informs us that Vaquier practically took over his own defence when he came to the dock seemingly oblivious to Justice Avory’s pained looks and sums up:

It says much for British justice that all this nonsense was listened to in silence, rather than being greeted with howls of derision, as it might well have been elsewhere.

For these asides alone, I loved the book. No death is so tragic that Adrian Vincent can’t add a little quip about some aspect that brings some levity to the proceedings.

The only downside to such an array of poisoners is that although we have an outline of the cases, there is no deep analysis or thread that examines causes, details the forensic breakthroughs or examines changes in the law that has more or less consigned this method of murder to the history books. Nothing links the cases involved beyond the fact that all those featured either chose to, or were accused of, bumping someone off with poison, the top choice being good old arsenic.

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this book by the publishers Endeavour Press. This review is my thanks to them and the author for a jolly romp through the poisoners that formerly walked the earth.

First Published UK: 1993
Publisher: Endeavour Press
No of Pages: 250
Genre: Non-Fiction – Historical True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Mrs Maybrick – Victoria Blake

Non-Fiction 4*s
Non-Fiction
4*s

I can’t write this review without stating how attractive this little book is being small and almost square it is really quite sweet, unlike its contents of course! So much so that I instantly felt an urge to collect others in this series on appearances alone and then I read it, and if the others are as well researched and clearly set out as this one, well I will need to fill an entire shelf with them!

I chose this book on the advice of the author when she mentioned Florence Maybrick in the comments section of my review of The Last Woman Hanged, the subject of that study was Louisa Collins who was accused of murdering two husbands in New South Wales in 1889. Florence Maybrick underwent her trial for the murder of her husband James Maybrick in August of the same year, the poison was the same, arsenic. I knew a little about Florence’s trial from the splendid read which was Victorian Murderesses but wanted to see what Victoria Blake would add. Quite a lot it would seem and even better at the end of the book she presents the arguments for and against on whether Florence was guilty as charged. I like a woman who stands by her research and the author didn’t disappoint putting her hat into the ring – which one you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself.

Within the 100 plus pages the information is densely packed with information including the background to the case, the state of the Maybrick’s marriage, the scheming servants and the two-faced friends all get as thorough examination as the facts will allow. The book has two sets of plates full of pictures of not only the key players in this drama but some of the documents used to convict Florence too.

It is interesting to read that there were many women who wrote to the papers about Florence Maybrick as they did for Louisa Collins on the other side of the world only months earlier. The same complaints were made in that Florence was being tried by and judged by men, women not being allowed to vote at this time, let alone sit on a jury! There also appears to have been some similar conviction on the part of the doctors and the police that Florence was guilty giving weight to the feeling that the trial wasn’t fair and the doubts about the poison, and whether it was poison raged just as fiercely in Liverpool in 1889 as they had in Australia. Perhaps the fears of the population that those weaker than them could easily procure the means to kill them in extreme agony had a part to play in both women’s trials or perhaps this was seen to be an easy way to get out of a marriage in a time when options were limited? Either way this makes for fascinating and informative reading.

Learn more about Victoria Blake on her blog here

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (March 9)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading Blackwater by James Henry,  a new police procedural series featuring DI Nick Lowry which is set in 1980s Essex.

Blackwater

You can read the synopsis and excerpts from this book in yesterday’s post.

I have recently finished Mrs Maybrick by Victoria Blake, a short non-fiction book which examines this infamous convicted poisoner.

Mrs Maybrick

Blurb

Florence Maybrick was a 19 year old Alabama belle when she married Liverpool cotton-broker James Maybrick in 1881. She was convicted of his murder in 1889 after arsenic was found in his corpse. However, it was never established whether she administered the poison or whether Maybrick himself took the fatal dose. This Crime Archive title examines the murder, trial and controversy through Home Office files held at The National Archives. Amazon

Next up is No One Knows by J.T. Ellison which is due to be published on 22 March 2016.

No One Knows

Blurb

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on. She just wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Who anonymously sent Aubrey her favorite cocktail at the bar where Josh stood her up? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious and strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?
As her heroine faces the possibility that everything she thinks she knows about herself, her marriage, and her husband is a lie, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. In a masterful thriller for readers who love Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins, Ellison pulls you into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows. NetGalley

So that’s my reading sorted! What are you reading this week?

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (March 5)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

Well funnily enough, despite my good intentions I have more new books to share with you all!

From NetGalley I am delighted to have received a copy of Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent. This author wrote one of my favourite reads of 2014, Unravelling Oliver.

Lying in wait


Blurb

FROM THE NUMBER 1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF UNRAVELLING OLIVER, 2014 IBA CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR Another absorbing, twisty, brilliantly observed story of murder in high places The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden. Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation. While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart. But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own. NetGalley

Lying in Wait will be published on 7 July 2016.

I also have a copy of Shot Through the Heart by Isabelle Grey, another author who has delivered great books, in fact I began my review of the first in this series, Good Girls Don’t Die by saying, ‘For anyone who thinks that the good old police procedural has had its day, think again.’

Shot through the heart

Blurb

Blurb

Who can you turn to, if not the police?
Essex, Christmas Day. As the residents of a small town enjoy their mince pies, shots ring out in the street. Five people are gunned down before the lone shooter turns his weapon on himself.
Grace Fisher, now Detective Inspector, is tasked with making some sense of this atrocity – all the more sensitive because the first of the victims was one of their own: a police officer. The case throws her back together with crime reporter Ivo Sweatman, but as she investigates it becomes clear that the police connection goes much deeper than she thought.
As the evidence of corruption grows and she is obstructed at every turn, Grace knows she is walking further into danger. Then, her young key witness disappears…
What far-reaching compromises will Grace have to make to safeguard the innocent? NetGalley

Shot Through the Heart will be published by Quercus on 24 March 2016

I also got through the post as a complete surprise a copy of The One In A Million Boy by Monica Wood courtesy of Headline ahead of publication on 5 April 2016.

The One in a Million Boy

Blurb

Miss Ona Vitkus has – aside from three months in the summer of 1914 – lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.
The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never…
Only it’s been two weeks now since he last visited, and she’s starting to think he’s not so different from all the rest.
Then the boy’s father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son’s good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life’s ambition to complete . . . Goodreads

I also purchased a couple of books in a weak moment. I simply couldn’t resist a copy of Mrs Maybrick by Victoria Blake when the author commented on my recent review of The Last Woman Hanged  mentioning that she had researched and written this book about a similar poisoner in Liverpool rather than New South Wales at around the same time. I do know a little about Florence Maybrick, having read the marvellous Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman. You can find more about Victoria Blake fro her blog here

Mrs Maybrick

Blurb

Florence Maybrick was a 19 year old Alabama belle when she married Liverpool cotton-broker James Maybrick in 1881. She was convicted of his murder in 1889 after arsenic was found in his corpse. However, it was never established whether she administered the poison or whether Maybrick himself took the fatal dose. This Crime Archive title examines the murder, trial and controversy through Home Office files held at The National Archives. Amazon

And lastly I bought a copy of The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah, book ten in the Culver Valley Crime series which I adore.

The Narrow Bed

Blurb

A killer that the police are calling ‘Billy Dead Mates’ is murdering pairs of best friends, one by one.
Before they die, each victim is given a small white book…
For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or work out what the white books mean. And then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward.
Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did a year ago. Was he Billy, and does he want to kill her? Kim has no friends and trusts no one. How – and why – could she possibly be Billy Dead Mates’ next target? Amazon

Now for an apology – I haven’t been able to answer all your lovely comments this week or visit your blogs, something I intend to rectify this weekend! I had to cross the water to the UK which caused internet access issues and then I’ve been overwhelmed at work… normal service should resume now!

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 6 books, and gained, 5, so the total has reduced by a massive 1 giving a now miniscule number of 171 books!
85 physical books
71 e-books
15 books on NetGalley

 

What have you found to read this week?