Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mile End Murder – Sinclair McKay

Non-Fiction
4*s

Sinclair McKay re-examines a crime right at the heart of the Victorian era in 1860. A murder that was committed against an elderly woman in her own home in the East End of London.

Mrs Emsley was no cuddly granny-type lady though, she was a miser worthy of a part in one of Charles Dickens (more of him later) novels. Born in the East End of London under the bells of St Anne’s in Stepney she came from humble beginnings but by the time she met her end she’d been married twice and amassed an enormous amount of wealth in the form of housing stock. Although she employed some men to collect her substantial rents she also visited the hovels packed with families who lived close by to her own home, not known for her compassion she would frequently evict her struggling tenants if they were even a week behind with their payments. She was therefore fairly universally disliked. All in all the best kind of murder victim for a good mystery; anyone and everyone can be a suspect.

                      Mary Emsley clutching a role of wallpaper

Mrs Emsley had bought some wallpaper which she was attempting to sell and so it came to be that her badly bludgeoned body was found in her house with the rolls of precious wallpaper close by. For a woman known to be suspicious of visitors the lack of forced entry suggests that she admitted her killer herself. The only clue was a a bloody footprint on the landing when the body was discovered by one of her rent collectors by which time it had attracted some maggots for good measure!

The police were called and soon fixed on a suspect and indeed this man was hung for the crimes committed. Unsurprisingly, and those of you who have read my previous reviews of Victorian true crimes will also detect a theme developing here, dear old Charles Dickens was apparently one of the 20,000 people who attended the public hanging while of course decrying the ghoulishness of those citizens eager for a bit of excitement.

In a twist to the tale in 1901 Arthur Conan Doyle took a look at the case as he wasn’t sure that the man who hung deserved his fate, his thoughts were published as a serialised book The Debatable Case Of Mrs. Emsley. In 2017 Sinclair McKay took up the baton and went back to the evidence and builds a case for another perpetrator entirely.

This is an incredibly readable book of the type I enjoy most in this sub-genre; Sinclair McKay keeps a running commentary of the social history alongside the background to the victim, the suspect and the resultant trial and hanging. There is also a substantial information on how relatives came out of the woodwork to claim her fortune and to keep it out of the hands of Queen Victoria since our miserly widow had not made a will.

I found it a fascinating read and whilst I have to admit that the author has perhaps hit upon a more worthy suspect than that of the police, I wasn’t altogether convinced that he had a watertight case either, but coming up with a credible alternative at the distance of more than 150 years is no mean feat.

I’d like to thank the publishers Aurum Press for allowing me to read a copy of The Mile End Murder and for Sinclair McKay who transported me back to a darker, dingier and poverty ridden East End of London.

First Published UK: 7 September 2017
Publisher: Aurum Press
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Non Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 12)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy 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

My current read is this month’s choice for The Classics Club, The Prime of Miss Brodie by Muriel Spark which I’m greatly enjoying.

Blurb

‘Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life…’

Passionate, free-thinking and unconventional, Miss Brodie is a teacher who exerts a powerful influence over her group of ‘special girls’ at Marcia Blaine School. They are the Brodie set, the crème de la crème, each famous for something – Monica for mathematics, Eunice for swimming, Rose for sex – who are initiated into a world of adult games and extracurricular activities they will never forget. But the price they pay is their undivided loyalty …

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a brilliantly comic novel featuring one of the most unforgettable characters in all literature. Goodreads

The last book I finished was a non-fiction entry albeit one that is firmly in the Victorian True Crime sub genre; The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay had me travelling back to 1860 to the East End of Victorian London.


Blurb

In 1860, a 70 year old widow turned landlady named Mary Emsley was found dead in her own home, killed by a blow to the back of her head.

What followed was a murder case that gripped the nation, a veritable locked room mystery which baffled even legendary Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle. With an abundance of suspects, from disgruntled step children concerned about their inheritance and a spurned admirer repeatedly rejected by the widow, to a trusted employee, former police officer and spy, the case led to a public trial dominated by surprise revelations and shock witnesses, before culminating with one of the final public executions at Newgate.

This is the case Conan Doyle couldn’t solve and, after confounding the best detectives for years, has finally be solved by author Sinclair McKay. Discover ‘whodunit’ as the real murderer is revealed for the first time exclusively in this captivating study of a murder case in the nineteenth century, a story never told before. Amazon

Next I plan to read The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton which will be published on 20 September 2018. I’ve been a firm fan of this author for years so this is a real treat!

Blurb

My real name, no one remembers.

The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Berkshire. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter. Amazon

So a bit more of a selection this week with a classic novel, a non-fiction read and a bit of historical fiction.

What does your reading week look like?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (July 1)

It seems like an age since I did a weekly wrap up, mainly because I was away enjoying a wonderful holiday in Rhodes for a couple of weeks. This gave me the opportunity to read a whole range of books in between eating, drinking and learning about the history of Rhodes. All in all I came back refreshed and relaxed and rejuvenated. Then I returned to work and all my good intentions of writing up my reviews faltered…

We returned home last Sunday and my neighbour’s son had done a wonderful job of looking after my sunflowers in our absence. I have six plants, two have open heads and another is on the way…

This Week on the Blog

Well it was straight into a review as I now have a backlog to write! The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell was a wonderful dual time-line story set between 1955 and the present day – a beautiful story to match the stunning cover.

My excerpt post was taken from Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington which was probably the most disturbing of my holiday reads.

This Week in Books featured the authors Lisa Jewell, Sabine Durrant and Jeffery Toobin

On Thursday I reviewed another new release; The Death of Mrs Westaway by the very talented Ruth Ware.

Next I posted my review of Conon Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox, a non-fiction read about how Conon Doyle got involved in the case of Oscar Slater who was accused of murdering an old lady in Glasgow in 1908.

Finally, yesterday I reviewed the first book in my 20 Books of Summer 2018 challenge with Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Island by Victoria Hislop which I’d bought following our holiday in Crete in 2016 because we visited the, now abandoned, leper colony on the small island of Spinalonga. Over the past year I have reflected on quite how powerful this story was. Not only is it very well-written but the fact that those suffering with leprosy were sent there within living memory is something I just can’t get out of my mind.

The story itself has all the elements you could want with love, betrayal, secrets and at its heart family. The story swings backwards and forwards from the little village of Plaka where life is simple to the bigger towns where research was going on to find a cure for the dreadful disease, a search which was suspended when the war became the fight that the whole of Greece was focussed on.

A memorable tale indeed.

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

Blurb

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip… Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Somehow even though I’ve been away I’ve managed to also acquire some new books a small selection of which I’ll share here…

I was absolutely thrilled to be sent a copy of Rachel Abbott’s stand-alone psychological thriller called And So It Begins which will be published in October 2018.

Blurb

So this is how it ends. It is clear to me now: one of us has to die.

Mark and Evie had a whirlwind romance. Evie brought Mark back to life after the sudden death of his first wife. Cleo, Mark’s sister, knows she should be happy for him. But Cleo doesn’t trust Evie…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As the accused stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder? Amazon

This sounds so good, it has a murder, a trial and a great character name even though it sounds like she either ends up dead or on a murder charge!

Another of my favourite authors also is going to publish a psychological thriller in the autumn and I was lucky enough to receive a copy of The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths before it is published on 1 November 2018.

Blurb

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers… Amazon

I also have a copy of The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton which I’m so excited about as I’ve loved each and every one of this author’s previous books. This is due to be published on 20 September 2018.

My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter. NetGalley

I couldn’t resist the offering of a copy of The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay (which was already on my wishlist) having so enjoyed Conan Doyle for the Defence, so I now have a  copy of this book, which has already been published.

Blurb

In 1860, a 70 year old widow turned landlady named Mary Emsley was found dead in her own home, killed by a blow to the back of her head.

What followed was a murder case that gripped the nation, a veritable locked room mystery which baffled even legendary Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle. With an abundance of suspects, from disgruntled step children concerned about their inheritance and a spurned admirer repeatedly rejected by the widow, to a trusted employee, former police officer and spy, the case led to a public trial dominated by surprise revelations and shock witnesses, before culminating with one of the final public executions at Newgate.

This is the case Conan Doyle couldn’t solve and, after confounding the best detectives for years, has finally be solved by author Sinclair McKay. Discover ‘whodunit’ as the real murderer is revealed for the first time exclusively in this captivating study of a murder case in the nineteenth century, a story never told before. Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Do share!

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read lots of books and I have also gained a small pile but I’m delighted to announce that the TBR has dropped to the unprecedented low level of 167!
Physical Books – 106
Kindle Books – 41
NetGalley Books –19
Audio Books –1

As all my reviews since my return have been of review copies I’ve not yet earned any more tokens so I’m 1 book in credit, having bought no new books.