Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The Poisoner – Stephen Bates #20BooksofSummer

Non-Fiction
3*s

Well every year I like to explore my weird obsession with poisoners a little bit more and Dr William Palmer who was tried for the murder of his friend in 1856 by poisoning seemed a good place to travel to in this journey.

Stephen Bates has compiled his book based on the 12 day trial for poisoning his gambling partner by strychnine, one of the less common poisons to use. On 13 November 1855 Palmer’s friend John Parsons Cook was on a high, he’d managed to win, when he was lucky enough to win £3,000 at Shrewsbury races, Palmer’s horse didn’t win. That night the winner fell ill and the loser tended to him. Dr William Palmer had trained as a surgeon and at best was a small town GP but he’d given up that as a way to make money long ago and now he gambled and part-owned horses to make his living.

In order to set out the facts for us I have to commend the author for the amount of research into this case using amongst other items the newspapers of the day and the archives at both Kew and Stafford, the area in which the death of John Parsons Cook occurred. What follows was even for the day, a large number of deaths including his brother and a number of children, killed for the insurance money the prosecution ascertained. But why did Palmer kill his partner? What was the motive? Well according to the victim’s father it all hinged on his betting book, Cook hadn’t yet collected his winnings before falling ill but if that was the case, Palmer’s scheme failed because he wasn’t able to get his hands on them either.

Sadly the book itself was not written in the most sparkling of prose, it often got bogged down in the particulars losing sight somewhat of the overall story. Yes, it is non-fiction, but a good author, and editor, will keep the narrative moving along. Sadly there was repetition from the early chapters in the later ones, maybe the author was worried we’d lost track by then! The book starts well enough with a description of the day of the race, the subsequent illness and the calling of the doctor for assistance but later on we skip back to the other ‘mysterious deaths’ and a (very) long chapter on the racing world only to pick over the details of the crime again when it came to court. Perhaps a judicial editor could have made the entirety feel slightly less ‘stodgy’

That said, there was an awful lot to enjoy and many parts that I found fascinating, particularly the social history that backs up this particular crime. As always the newspaper coverage was interesting as was their horror at the number of people that turned up at the courts etc… you can always rely on the media to be the most hypocritical bunch. That might also be said about our dear friend Charles Dickens who pops up with regularity in all these Victorian trials, and hangings, bemoaning the popularity of events. It is rumoured that Inspector Bucket from Bleak House was modelled on the tenacious Charles Frederick Field who investigated the insurance angle of the crime.

Facts such as that this was the first trial moved from its home county following the Central Criminal Court Act 1856 being passed by an Act of Parliament due to the belief that the accused couldn’t possibly get a fair trial in Staffordshire; the trial was held at the Old Bailey instead, were stacked high and so on balance it was worth a read for an ardent follower of poisoners through the ages such as myself.

The Poisoner is my twelfth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge

First Published UK: 2014
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd
No of Pages: 324
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (July 25)

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

I am currently reading The Lighthouse by P.D. James who was one of the early crime writers who got me hooked on the genre but I didn’t ever get around to reading this, the thirteenth in the Adam Dalgliesh series.

Blurb

Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered.

Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves, Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems and the ambitious Anglo-Indian Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly have the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects that there is a second brutal killing and the whole investigation is jeopardised when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder. Amazon

The last book I finished was the compelling and unflinching story by Lisa Ballantyne called Little Liar which will be published on 2 August 2018.

Blurb


The accused

While Nick Dean is enjoying an evening at home with his family, he is blissfully unaware that one of his pupils has just placed an allegation of abuse against him – and that Nick’s imminent arrest will see the start of everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him.
Because, mud sticks, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.

The accuser

When Angela Furness decides that enough is enough – she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school – she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple.

Because, once you’ve said what you’ve said, there’s no way back, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty. Amazon

Next I’m planning on reading The Poisoner by Stephen Bates which is another of my 20 Books of Summer 2018 reads.

Blurb

In 1856, a baying crowd of over 30,000 people gathered outside Stafford prison to watch the execution of a village doctor from Staffordshire. One of the last people to be publicly hanged, the ‘Rugely Poisoner’, the ‘Prince of Poisoners’, ‘The greatest villain who ever stood trial at the Old Bailey,’ as Charles Dickens described him, Dr William Palmer was convicted in 1856 of murdering his best friend, but was suspected of poisoning more than a dozen other people, including his wife, children, brother and mother-in-law – cashing in on their life insurance to fund his monstrously indebted gambling habit.

Highlighting Palmer’s particularly gruesome penchant for strychnine, his trial made news across Europe: the most memorable in fifty years, according to the Old Bailey’s presiding Lord Chief Justice.

He was a new kind of murderer – respectable, middle class, personable, and consequently more terrifying – and he became Britain’s most infamous figure until the arrival of Jack the Ripper. The first widely available account of one of the most notorious, yet lesser-known, mass-murderers in British history, The Poisoner takes a fresh look at Palmer’s life and disputed crimes, ultimately asking ‘just how evil was this man?’ With previously undiscovered letters from Palmer and new forensic examination of his victims, Stephen Bates presents not only an astonishing and controversial revision of Palmer’s entire story, but takes the reader into the very psyche of a killer. Amazon

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018

20 Books of Summer 2018! Part 2 #20booksofsummer


On 28 May 2018 I posted my first set of 10 books that I planned to read for this challenge, the idea being that I would post the second selection in mid-July, having read and reviewed the first 10. Dear reader, the plan has gone a little awry!

Anyway I’ve read 9 of my 10 books, reviewed just 4 and have very little reading time so I suspect I won’t finish the second set but here’s what I’m aiming to read.

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

 

Victorian Murders by Jan Bondeson

Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth

My Sister and Other Liars by Ruth Dugdall 

Flight by Isabel Ashdown

The Lighthouse by P.D. James

The Poisoner by Stephen Bates 

This Is Not a Novel by Jennifer Johnston 

The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy 

Lady Bette and the Murder of Mr Thynn by Nigel Pickford

Famous Trials I by Harry Hodge

You can check out the master page which will have the full list of 20 books here

There are so many within this selection that I’m eager to read and since time is of the essence I have a feeling that I will start with P.D. James’s book The Lighthouse.

Do you agree? Where would you start?

Wish me luck…

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (January 2)

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 Santa bought me a couple of books despite being warned off, because apparently I have enough books? – isn’t he nice?

From my brother I got a copy of Plague Land by S.D. Sykes which looks entertaining and I haven’t read much in the way of medieval crime fiction.

Plague Land

Blurb

Plague Land is set in the fourteenth century, and portrays a society trying to deal with the traumatic effects of the apocalypse of the Black Death – though it is murder, not plague, which is terrorising the Kent village of Somershill …
Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by thePlague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate.
He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants.
Yet some things never change. Oswald’s mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried.
Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it – by finding the real murderer – is quite a different matter.
Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.
And then the body of another girl is found.
SD Sykes brilliantly evokes the landscape and people of medieval Kent in this thrillingly suspenseful debut Goodreads>

He also sent me a copy of The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor by Stephen Bates.

The Poisoner

Blurb

In 1856, a baying crowd of over 30,000 people gathered outside Stafford prison to watch the hanging of Dr. William Palmer, “the greatest villain that ever stood in the Old Bailey” as Charles Dickens once called him. Palmer was convicted of poisoning and suspected in the murders of dozens of others, including his best friend, his wife, and his mother-in-law—and cashing in on their insurance to fuel his worsening gambling addiction. Highlighting his gruesome penchant for strychnine, the trial made news across both the Old World and the New. Palmer gripped readers not only in Britain—Queen Victoria wrote of that horrible Palmer” in her journal—but also was a different sort of murderer than the public had come to fear—respectable, middle class, personable—and consequently more terrifying. But as the gallows door dropped, one question still gnawed at many who knew the case: Was Palmer truly guilty?
The first major retelling of William Palmer’s story in over sixty years, The Poisoner takes a fresh look at the infamous doctor’s life and disputed crimes. Using previously undiscovered letters from Palmer and new forensic examination of his victims, journalist Stephen Bates presents not only an astonishing and controversial revision of Palmer’s life but takes the reader into the very psyche of a killer. Goodreads

I also have a copy of The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards which I’ve coveted for quite some time – it’s beautiful!

The Golden Age of Murder

Blurb

A real-life detective story, investigating how Agatha Christie and colleagues in a mysterious literary club transformed crime fiction, writing books casting new light on unsolved murders whilst hiding clues to their authors’ darkest secrets.
This is the first book about the Detection Club, the world’s most famous and most mysterious social network of crime writers. Drawing on years of in-depth research, it reveals the astonishing story of how members such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers reinvented detective fiction.
Detective stories from the so-called “Golden Age” between the wars are often dismissed as cosily conventional. Nothing could be further from the truth: some explore forensic pathology and shocking serial murders, others delve into police brutality and miscarriages of justice; occasionally the innocent are hanged, or murderers get away scot-free. Their authors faced up to the Slump and the rise of Hitler during years of economic misery and political upheaval, and wrote books agonising over guilt and innocence, good and evil, and explored whether killing a fellow human being was ever justified. Though the stories included no graphic sex scenes, sexual passions of all kinds seethed just beneath the surface.
Attracting feminists, gay and lesbian writers, Socialists and Marxist sympathisers, the Detection Club authors were young, ambitious and at the cutting edge of popular culture – some had sex lives as bizarre as their mystery plots. Fascinated by real life crimes, they cracked unsolved cases and threw down challenges to Scotland Yard, using their fiction to take revenge on people who hurt them, to conduct covert relationships, and even as an outlet for homicidal fantasy. Their books anticipated not only CSI, Jack Reacher and Gone Girl, but also Lord of the Flies. The Club occupies a unique place in Britain’s cultural history, and its influence on storytelling in fiction, film and television throughout the world continues to this day.
The Golden Age of Murder rewrites the story of crime fiction with unique authority, transforming our understanding of detective stories and the brilliant but tormented men and women who wrote them. Goodreads

I also got an Amazon voucher from a very dear friend who got around the no books rule! So far I have bought a copy of Blood in the Sand by Kelly Clayton after connecting with the author on twitter and finding out not only does she live in Jersey but her book is also set here!

Blood in the Sand

Blurb

How far would you go to claim your birthright?
When family tragedy strikes, New York lawyer Grace Howard travels to the Channel Island of Jersey. Welcomed by her family’s connections by marriage, and suffering from a personal setback, Grace is introduced to two very different men. However, all is not as it first appears in this island community and before long Grace is caught up in a murder enquiry. In her time of greatest need Grace doesn’t know who she can trust.
DCI Jack Le Claire has returned to his Jersey roots after a stint with the London Metropolitan Police where he worked Homicide and Serious Crime. After months of dealing with run-of-the-mill cases, Le Claire cannot help but miss his time with the Met and secretly longs for something more challenging. Be careful what you wish for – it might just come true… Goodreads

Finally I have a copy of In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, my resolve finally weakened by Crimeworm’s excellent review.

In Bitter Chill

Blurb

In 1978, a small town in Derbyshire, England is traumatised by the kidnapping of two young schoolgirls. One girl, Rachel, is later found unharmed but unable to remember anything except that her abductor was a woman.
Over thirty years later the mother of the still missing Sophie commits suicide. Superintendent Llewellyn, who was a young constable on the 1978 case, asks DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs to look again at the kidnapping to see if modern police methods can discover something that the original team missed. However, Sadler is convinced that a more recent event triggered Yvonne Jenkins’s suicide.
Rachel, with the help of her formidable mother and grandmother, recovered from the kidnapping and has become a family genealogist. She remembers nothing of the abduction and is concerned that, after Yvonne Jenkins’s suicide, the national media will be pursuing her for a story once more. Days later, the discovery of one of her former teachers’ strangled body suggested a chain of events is being unleashed.
Rachel and the police must unpick the clues to discover what really happened all those years ago. But in doing so, they discover that the darkest secrets can be the ones closest to you. Goodreads

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 5 books, and gained 5, leading to a grand total of exactly the same 171 books!
85 physical books
72 e-books
14 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?