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Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic

Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic [Kindle Edition]

Kate Colquhoun
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Kate Colquhoun's account of the Maybrick case is brilliantly detailed - her knowledge of the uses and misuses of poison would put that of many pharmacists to shame (Rachel Cooke Observer)

The case is thrilling, the trial harrowing and Colquhoun does them justice (Laura Freeman Daily Mail)

A perfect mirror of mid-Victorian morality (Saga)

Kate Colquhoun's fascinating history . . . critiques thoroughly and carefully the attitudes of the time (Scotsman)

This is a gripping, beautifully detailed story redolent with danger and impending tragedy. (Kirsty Wark)

Accomplished biographer and social commentator Kate Colquhoun is taking on Victorian murder in Did She Kill Him? Conveying the hypocrisy and claustrophobia of middle-class life at the time it is likely to hit the spot with anyone who was intrigued by The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. (Daily Express - Top titles for 2014)

With deliciously dark elements of addiction, deception, torrid adultery and poison, this is the riveting true story of a sensational Victorian trial of 1889 . . . Colquhoun's writing has a wonderful slow burn to it, and until the final page, she keeps us guessing: guilty, or not guilty? (The Bookseller)

Exhaustively researched and not for the faint-hearted. Her descriptions of the autopsy carried out in the victim's bedroom would make Kay Scarpetta wince . . . But there is another element that Colquhoun hauls blinking into the light: the changing moral climate of the time and the conflict between the patriarchal ancien régime and the emergence of the New Woman (Daily Express)

Sensibly, if tantalisingly, Kate Colquhoun offers no final answers in her absorbing review of this old scandal . . . she highlights what the case can tell us about late Victorian England - its flawed legal processes and dangerous medical practices, its predatory appetite for gossip, and above all the uncertain position of its women. What Colquhoun reveals is a persistent doubleness - respectability concealing transgression . . . Restlessness, rather than complacency, characterises the society that she describes (Guardian)

Intriguing, forensic . . . a moral fable of the age, intelligently told by Colquhoun, who places her sources cleverly within historical and literary context . . . gripping (The Times)

While [Did She Kill Him] is a carefully researched account, based on contemporary sources, it reads more like a novel (Liverpool Echo)

[Colquhoun] builds an almost unbearable tension into the events . . . This book is much more than a real-life murder mystery. Colquhoun has researched her subject thoroughly and presents a forensic account of the facts as known . . . Colquhoun spins a tale rich in detail and atmosphere, and her meticulous research never overshadows her obvious talent for storytelling (Herald)

Kate Colquhoun has complicated and fascinating story to tell. She has researched the case well, reading the original trial transcripts and contemporary newspaper reports in addition to the many previous accounts of the Maybrick case (Literary Review)

Meticulously researched, this vivid account follows every twist and turn of the case that's threaded with adultery, poison and addiction. It kept me guessing to the end. (Woman & Home)

Colquhoun's account . . . is vivid and shocking . . . giving us a keyhole through which to peep into an era when gender relations were almost as toxic as the pick-me-ups that probably killed James [Maybrick] (Lucy Hughes-Hallett Sunday Times)

Colquhoun presents an absorbing picture of a society which would rather hang a woman, despite lack of evidence, than besmirch her husband's name (Press Association)

A fascinating, meticulously researched book, full of period detail. Colquhoun's success in weaving together a series of complex topics is no mean feat and an even greater achievement is to have presented them clearly and simply (Spectator)

Kate Colquhoun renders the story in a vivid, novelistic style . . . gripping (Financial Times)

A fascinating tale (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

Enlivened by imaginative detail, Colquhoun's lively and perceptive narrative has the reader rooting for the friendless defendant (Independent)

Book Description

The sensational murder trial of Florence Maybrick that gripped Victorian society.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3447 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (6 Mar 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DVL655Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,492 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exhaustive study ... 27 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating social case study which KC uses to point up the abuse of women, by Victorian society. It is initially difficult to imagine how a respectable middle class mother can so quickly become a murderess in the eyes of her immediate family, her peers, her servants and the law.
Whilst the detailed chronological account of events is important in establishing the downfall of this lady, KC's academic approach to her subject can seem a little plodding to the general reader. Hence my four star rating.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is mistitled 14 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was so looking forward to this book. I have great respect for Kate Coloqohoun as a writer, and I've always been curious about Florence Maybrick,so this should have been a golden combination.

Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. It's a decent and complete record of the trial, but it cannot claim, in my opinion, to be a book about the case at all considering that 42% of it is an afterword and notes and bibliography, and a large proportion of the rest is an extended essay about Victorian attitudes towards women.

If you're reading on Kindle, you will reach the Afterword at 58% which was a real shock to me; I was expecting the second half of the book to be an analysis of the case, or previously unpublished detail about Florence, or a new theory about the case. Instead, the book ends.

Maybrick's case was undoubtedly a reflection in many ways of the changing place of women in Victorian society, and attitudes towards them, but this wasn't actually the reason I bought the book. If I wanted extensive analysis of female literary heroines of the period, I would buy a book on that subject. But I think titling this book 'Did She Kill Him: deception, adultery and arsenic' does imply that it is going to be predominantly about Florence and the case.

Sadly, an opportunity to explore more of the enigma that was Florence is missed. I am praying that someone else takes up the challenge soon.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Non-fiction or fiction? 5 April 2014
I was looking forward to this book as I had read about and been fascinated by the Florence Maybrick case some years ago. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed by this new look at it.

There is a disturbing trend in non-fiction of authors feeling they need to tart up an account with 'literary' touches. It's not enough to convey the facts in an engaging way, the author needs to add what I've seen described in reviews of other such books as 'the evil glint in Hitler's eye' syndrome.

Right at the start the author writes: 'Florence Maybrick was lost in thought as she sat in a silk-covered chair before the wide bay window...her tapering fingers remained idle in the lap from which one of her three cats had lately jumped, bored by her failure to show it affection'

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the cat left an account recording how Florence was rather distant and didn't
stroke him enough. Or maybe it's all made up, like a lot of other such passages. The problem with that is that from then on the onus is on the reader to decide which information offered up is true and what has been made up. That's the last thing I want hovering in the background when I'm reading 'true' crime. The author does put some direct quotes In italics to reassure us, but they are few and far between, and the rest of the time you have to decide whether someone really said this, thought that, did the other etc etc.

And anyway, these rather affected literary flourishes are simply irritating!

There have been much better, factual accounts of this case.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forensic evaluation of a crowded marriage 18 Mar 2014
I love the subtitle to this book: Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic. Did She Kill Him? is an account of the 1889 trial of Florence Maybrick who was accused of poisoning her older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick, with arsenic. Arsenic is a major player in this story -- almost a household member or the third person in an unhappy marriage.Colquhuon writes well about the mutual disenchantments and "curdling discontent" between the Liverpool businessman and his younger American wife. Part one of Did She Kill Him? is written with the vividness of a bio-pic. She does not hesitate to describe the smell of the sea or the drumming of the rain, the smouldering of ash in the household grate or Florence's movements as she examines her own complexion in the mirror. "Although I have stuck rigorously to contemporary sources, the reconstruction of history inevitably remains to some extent a work of imagination." As a reader I hesitated a moment then relaxed and enjoyed the sensuousness of this descriptive writing. It vanishes, rightly, from the analysis of the trial. Here Colquhuon is clear and painstaking. The doctors are on trial as much as the accused. The court of public opinion is fully involved and jurors are confused and fallible. The scene is set for a miscarriage of justice which Colquhuon suggests has much wider ramifications than the fate of a single individual. She sites Florence Maybrick in her social and her cultural context. This is a book that will repay re-reading
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