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Unnatural Murder: Poison In The Court Of James I: The Overbury Murder Paperback – 2 Aug 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (2 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753801981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753801987
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

A royal scandal, set against the background of the Jacobean court, involving love, bribery, poison, treachery and black magic.

About the Author

56

Anne Somerset was born in 1955 and educated in London, Gloucestershire and Kent. After reading History at King's College, London she worked as a research assistant for various historians. UNNATURAL MURDER, an account of the sensational Overbury murder was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger award for non-fiction. Anne Somerset is married and lives in London.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 July 2000
Unnatural Murder captures the essence of the 1600's with such fascinating detail that I can't put it down! I'm about 3/4 of the way through at the moment and I'm amazed at the information I'm learning about the history of the period - a topic that I am familiar with anyway.
History books can sometimes be a collection of well researched facts and little else. They can be dry to read and easy to forget. Anne Somerset has included so much everyday detail in with the facts of this murder enquiry that I feel as if I'm there in the court room with them all.
The book has given me so much more insight into our past as a Nation. It's not quite 400 years ago, which seems a long time in one way, but hardly anytime at all when you read the case. The medical knowledge of the time was extremely limited, the treatments barbaric, yet the practicing of law, although very different then from now, has recognisable threads that will come forward into our own times. We always think that our time is the most advanced. We think we work harder than ever before and longer hours with greater inventions. Yet reading about Lord Coke, the Lord Chief Justice, made me realise that striving to be the best in your choosen career and being ruthless along the way is not a recent thing.
For information about the court life of King James 1 of England, for everyday details, the way courtiers sought to better themselves at the expense of the King, this book is a valuable source. For realising that greed, power and unauthorised spending are not a sign of our times the details contained in the pages are facinating. For detective process and law and order, this book is an eye opener which closes the gap of the years between us.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. L. E. Ford on 29 July 2008
I am fascinated by history and especially historical kings and queens. However, I had never delved very much into James Ist and his court so this book really caught my eye. I was not disappointed by Anne Somerset's work. Initially she lays down a very good foundation with great descriptions and insights into all the characters involved in the affair of Thomas Overbury's death and the subsequent trials that followed. Each character becomes so alive and one really feels that you are living alongside them at court, in London, and in the Tower. I would recommend Anne's book to anyone who, like me, enjoys a good historical read, whether fiction or non-fiction as she forgets no detail whatsoever but provides a feast where her characters are concerned. I hope to read her book on William IV next as this is one of the Kings that I do not know too well. I am sure I will feel very close to him and his court though once I get my teeth into her meaty meal.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Warmington on 15 Jan 2010
I'm an academic historian by training but full marks to Anne Somerset for a cracking read on a now obscure scandal that riveted Jacobean England: the trial of King James I's fallen favourite, Sir Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and his wife, Frances Howard, for the murder by poison of Carr's former friend Sir Robert Overbury in the Tower of London.

Somerset has done her research well and, if she tends to wander off on learned digressions that are not really needed or occasionally shows her learning to no great effect, that is compensated for by her acute eye for how things really were. She has looked in depth at the sources and pieces together the story in extraordinary detail.

It isn't really a mystery story. Frances pleaded guilty and was patently guilty, as were most of those who hanged for it. The only open questions are whether Somerset himself took a hand in it and whether it was actually the poisons that got Overbury or the ghastly ordeal he suffered at the hands of 17th century doctors.

Perversely, Somerset may have been innocent but was convicted because the mind of the day said that a woman could not have hatched the plot alone. Frances, who probably never had sex in her entire life with anyone but him (the annulment of her first marriage, which was never consummated, is also described in excellent detail), was traduced more for her immorality than her participation in a murder. And, needless to add, the 'little birds' hanged while the couple behind it were pardoned, though their disgrace was complete and perpetual.

What emerges clearest is the staggering venality and corruption of the court, where men who sought office raised thousands to bribe noblemen to have a word.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter K. Butler on 23 July 2007
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This is a totally gripping book, bringing to life an intriguing period in English history and combining that detail with a thriller-like narrative. I'd never heard of the Overbury murder before, nor had I heard of the historian Anne Somerset... I'm glad to have remedied both situations. I certainly hope to read more of Ms Somerset's work.
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