Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane – Paul Thomas Murphy

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

This historical true crime happened in 1871 in the Greenwich are of Victorian London. Poor Jane Coulson had been found in a terrible state with her face bashed in on a footpath by a policeman following his beat in the area. The girl was at last unidentified so extreme were her facial injuries and in the week or so that it took to discover who she was a few other girls, sadly of disrepute, were named as the victim. Eventually the truth was discovered but Jane Coulson didn’t, couldn’t, survive her injuries.

This is a well-researched book of a crime that I hadn’t come across before and doesn’t just concentrate on the police’s investigation into the murder but also the three trials the suspect underwent with the accompanying views of both the media and the local population at the time. With a sense of the place impeccably reconstructed for the reader as well as a detailed look at the various stages of the investigation and the trial I was absorbed by this reconstruction. With enough doubt to whether the right person had been arrested from the outset the author has pieced together the details including those that didn’t appear at the trial. Of course, after such a long period of time, there is little hard evidence to re-examine but that didn’t stop the author applying principles known today that were not at this time, being used to make a reasonable assessment of the case.

The author also captures the characters who make up the background to the story. From the reluctant witness of the shop-keeper who was unable to identify the man who bought the hammer which was the alleged weapon to the righteous Mr Henry Pook who defended the alleged perpetrator Edmund Pook, no relative. Edmund Pook was supported by his father a grandly named Ebenezer Pook along with his brother and other family members. The victim, Jane Coulson had worked as a maid of all work for this middle-class family and as a result we get to see how the Victorian class system operated at that time. Maids of all work were by far the most common servants of the time with middle-class families keeping one to do long hours as a status symbol as much as anything. The Pooks were not so well-off that Jane even had a pokey attic for a room, she actually shared with the victim’s cousin!

All in all a fascinating and immensely readable account of the crime, its investigation both into the identity of the victim and the murderer, the trials that followed and just as intriguingly the reaction of the public both on the streets and through the media of the day. In some ways this reaction was split along class lines but not entirely which in itself was interesting.

In the end my conclusion ties in with the authors but read the book yourself, you may well think that another scenario is equally as likely as to who did kill Jane Coulson.

I’d like to thank the publishers Head of Zeus who allowed me to read an advance copy of this book. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

Published UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Head of Zeus
No of Pages 352
Genre: Historical True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US – Not Available

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (July 19)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

This week my opener comes from Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A Victorian Murder Mystery Solved by Paul Thomas Murphy.

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane

Blurb

A page-turning true-crime narrative forms a thrilling reconstruction of a brutal Victorian murder, in which Paul Thomas Murphy identifies, after 144 years, the killer responsible for the slaying of Jane Maria Clouson.
In April 1871, a constable walking a beat near Greenwich found a girl dying in the mud – her face cruelly slashed and her brains protruding from her skull.
The girl was Maria Jane Clouson, a maid for the respectable Pook family, and who was pregnant at the time of her death. When the blood-spattered clothes of the 20-year-old Edmund Pook, alleged father of the dead girl’s unborn child, were discovered, the matter seemed open and shut. Yet there followed a remarkable legal odyssey full of unexpected twists as the police struggled to build a case.
Paul Thomas Murphy recreated the drama of an extraordinary murder case and conclusively identifies the killer’s true identity. NetGalley

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

CHAPTER ONE
LET ME DIE

He stumbled upon her at 4:15 on Wednesday morning, April 26, 1871, half an hour before the sun rose, just as definition and colour began to bleed into the amorphous black and grey. Donald Gunn, a police constable of R, or Greenwich Division of the London Metropolitan police, was at the extremity of his beat, which had taken him from Shooter’s Hill southwest through the smaller town of Eltham, and then northeast to this deserted road flanked by market gardens and bisected by the little rivulet-Kid Brook-that gave this road its name – Kidbrooke Lane. Kidbrooke Lane provided a direct route between the Kent countryside and the metropolis, but few carriages or wagons travelled that way, as it was muddy, rutted-nearly impassable. The lane’s adjoining footpath, however was drier, and during the day the route was well frequented by pedestrians, particularly in the evenings: then, the area around Kidbrooke Lane became a well-known haven for lovers, the surrounding fields offering the perfect space apart for lovemaking, just minutes from the bustle of southeast London, but a world away from the relentless attention of the city, and particularly from prying parental eyes.

This extract comes from a proof copy

So what do you think? Quite a long lead-in but I think it is giving us a very good picture of the place of the murder.

Please leave your thoughts and links in the envelope below!