Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Murder by the Book – Claire Harman

Non-Fiction
4*s

Another book in this year’s favourite topic; Victorian true crime, with the crime in this case committed in the early part of the young Queen’s reign. It was 6 May 1840 when Lord William Russell was found lying on his bed with his head almost severed. Quite a shock for the servants who found him. This isn’t a story from the backstreets of Whitechapel either, rather the scene of the crime was on a smart street in Mayfair.

The crime itself was shocking enough and kept those who followed the subsequent investigation duly scandalised, and to be fair, frightened. If a crime like this could happen in Mayfair, was anywhere safe in these ‘modern times’? What worried everyone even more though was when a culprit was found and questioned. The story he gave was that he’d changed from a former gentle young man to savage murderer because of his reading matter – the best selling crime novel of the day being Jack Sheppard by William Harrison Ainsworth. A book that had gained a widespread following in part due to the rising levels of literature amongst the lower classes. Given that the story was of a daring (and dashing) jail-breaker in the style known as a Newgate Novel. The key to success for writers at this time were to be published as serials in the style of Charles Dickens and coincidentally Jack Sheppard appeared in some of the same editions of Bentley’s Miscellany as Oliver Twist himself and it seems Ainsworth jumped on the popular genre of the day and with a bit of slang and plenty of references to robbery and violence with a dollop of romance, the public couldn’t get enough. Giving the novel even more realism Jack Sheppard was a well-known criminal in 18th-century London.

The author of our book, Claire Harman goes onto describe how the theatres were quick to put their adaptions of the novel on the stage so aspiring criminals didn’t have to read the book itself for the power of crime to seep into the bones until it would seem that there was hardly a man or woman in the land from the lowliest to the mightiest who hadn’t read or watched Jack Sheppard’s daring dos.

The newspapers who were as quick back then as now to have something concrete to blame. Newgate Novels were held up as the cause of the murder of Lord William Russell and Jack Sheppard in particular. All of this is terrifically interesting especially the reaction of Ainsworth’s former friends including Charles Dickens who went out of his way to explain why Oliver Twist wasn’t a Newgate Novel despite many of the themes in the two books being remarkably similar.

Needless to say for all the hoo-ha the books continued o be popular but Ainsworth toned down the writing style in subsequent books and was never as successful again.

Unfortunately from an interest perspective this wasn’t the most exciting of investigations as the police fairly quickly alighted on their main suspect, although of course from this distance of time and knowing how few scientific resources the police had to use, there is always a level of wonder about the apprehension of the right man. The interest comes from the reading matter of our ancestors who’d have thought a book could cause quite such a stir? This alongside the interesting legal facts the author presents from the day meant that the result was I felt I’d got some real insight into social history from an unusual angle.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Books UK for allowing me to read a proof copy of Murder by the Book. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 25 October 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 224
Genre: Non Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (October 9)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Today’s opening paragraph comes from Murder by the Book by Claire Harman which will be published later this month by Penguin Books UK and with a historical true crime with a literary twist, one that is highly anticipated by yours truly.



Blurb

Early in the morning of 6 May 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed.

The whole of London, from monarch to street urchins, was gripped by the gory details of the Russell murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction, and a fierce debate about censorship and morality. Several of the key literary figures of the day, including Dickens and Thackeray, were drawn into the controversy, and when Lord William’s murderer claimed to having been inspired by the season’s most sensational novel, it seemed that a great deal more was on trial than anyone could have guessed.

Bringing together much previously unpublished material from a wide range of sources, Claire Harman reveals the story of the notorious Russell murder case and its fascinating connections with the writers and literary culture of the day. Gripping and eye-opening, Murder by the Book is the untold true story of a surprisingly literary crime. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1. A Last Walk

At six o’clock on the evening of 5 May 1840, a spare old gentleman of medium height and distinguished but unshowy appearance could have been walking a large white dog along Norfolk Street in Mayfair, just a few yards away from Hyde Park’s northeast corner. He didn’t go very far, nor proceed very fast. Lord William Russell was asthmatic and suffered from a hernia that made walking difficult. He was heading towards a house just off Grosvenor Square, to combine a message for an upholsterer, Mr Barry, with his routine airing before dinner.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well this starts well I think, a good setting of the scene with the soon to be murder victim taking his routine airing… It’s nice to meet him ‘before’ as I’ve found most in this genre seem to greet us with the corpse.

What do you think? Would you keep reading

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 30)

My blogging (and reading) has become erratic over the last few weeks and so it is a little while since I did a weekly wrap up post, but there is a reason… I have been engaged for nearly eight years but last month we decided we’d actually do the deed, and we are getting married in April 2019. I’m especially happy this weekend because my best friend is visiting from her native Gloucester and so yesterday, along with my daughter, we went wedding dress shopping and had far more fun than I expected.

This Week on the Blog

This week started with my excerpt post which was for Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, a book that will be published on 4 October 2018.

This Week in Books featured the authors Wendy James, Babs Horton and Ronnie Turner.

I then posted my review for The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton which was published 20 September 2018.

On Friday I posted my review of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark which is another book ticked of The Classics Club reads.

The week finished with my review of Mae West’s account of her childhood with Fred and Rose West followed with how she came to terms with the awful crimes her parents committed in Love As Always Mum xxx

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Last Thread by Ray Britain a crime fiction novel written by a man who had a varied and lengthy career in the Police Force acting as Senior Investigating Officer in many investigations.

I was worried that Ray’s eagerness to reflect real life policing would slow the story line right down with detail but it didn’t. In fact The Last Thread is one of those books that has remained distinct from the heap of crime fiction I’ve read in the last year.

With an opening of a boy standing on a bridge about to commit suicide with the chief protagonist DCI Doug Stirling that had my heart pounding and the tension remained high throughout the rest of the novel.

The Last Thread is an outstanding debut with an exceptional plot which is complex yet not so much so that I ever lost any of the threads, let alone the last one!

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



Blurb

Accused of pushing a boy to his death, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s eyes as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must watch helplessly as an incompetent colleague bent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death.

Weeks later, a burnt-out car containing a savagely murdered, unidentified man leads ACC Steph Tanner to take a professional risk in appointing Stirling to lead the investigation. But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has too many ‘loose threads’ as a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships is revealed.

Is the investigation as complex as it appears, or is there a simpler explanation? With time the enemy, and still traumatised by the boy’s death, can Stirling bring the killer, or killers, to justice before his career is ruined?

Things are difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman intent on rekindling their past relationship. And could Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, be connected to the murder? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I might have been so busy my reading has slowed down but I have still managed to acquire some new books.

I have a new audible book Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea which will be over in no time as I march around the island to make sure the wedding dress fits!

Blurb

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.

As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.

Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life. Amazon

From NetGalley I have a copy of the latest in the Detective Kim Stone series, Fatal Promise by Angela Marsons which will be published on 19 October.

Blurb

Eeeny meeny, miney, moe. Who lives, who dies only I know.

When the body of a doctor is discovered brutally murdered in local woodland, Detective Kim Stone is shocked to discover the victim is Gordon Cordell – a man linked to a previous case she worked on involving the death of a young school girl. Gordon has a chequered past, but who would want him dead?

As the investigation gets underway, Gordon’s son is involved in a horrific car crash which leaves him fighting for his life. Kim’s sure this was no accident.

Then the body of a woman is found dead in suspicious circumstances and Kim makes a disturbing link between the victims and Russells Hall Hospital. The same hospital where Gordon worked.

With Kim and her team still grieving the loss of one of their own, they’re at their weakest and facing one of the most dangerous serial killers they’ve ever encountered. Everything is on the line. Can Kim keep her squad together and find the killer before he claims his next victim?

The killer is picking off his victims at a terrifying pace, and he’s not finished yet. Amazon

As well as a copy of Murder by the Book by Claire Harman which will be published on 25 October 2018.

Blurb

Early in the morning of 6 May 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed.

The whole of London, from monarch to street urchins, was gripped by the gory details of the Russell murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction, and a fierce debate about censorship and morality. Several of the key literary figures of the day, including Dickens and Thackeray, were drawn into the controversy, and when Lord William’s murderer claimed to having been inspired by the season’s most sensational novel, it seemed that a great deal more was on trial than anyone could have guessed.

Bringing together much previously unpublished material from a wide range of sources, Claire Harman reveals the story of the notorious Russell murder case and its fascinating connections with the writers and literary culture of the day. Gripping and eye-opening, Murder by the Book is the untold true story of a surprisingly literary crime. Amazon

I have also purchased a copy of The Lies We Told by Camilla Way because I’d enjoyed the author’s previous novel Watching Evie so much.


Blurb

DO YOU PROMISE NOT TO TELL?

A DAUGHTER
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.

A SON
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.

A LIFE BUILT ON LIES
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late? Amazon

tbr-watch

Since I last reported my figures I’ve read 7 books and somehow in the same time I’ve acquired 4! The total is therefore down to the record low of 163!
Physical Books – 109
Kindle Books – 40
NetGalley Books –13
Audio Books –1

 

I have also added 4 reviews of my own books and I spent 2 tokens so the complicated maths gives me 3 1/3 book tokens to spend.