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The Curious Habits of Dr Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery
The Curious Habits of Dr Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery
by Jane Robins
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taut and Gripping Narrative, 21 May 2013
My first acquaintance with the Bodkin Adams case was Timothy West's deliciously creepy 1986 TV portrayal of the good doctor assiduously sending his patients to their reward; my second was the account by the trial judge Lord Devlin, 'Easing the Passing', published in 1985. Both these followed swift upon Bodkin Adams's death in 1983 and time and Shipman have widened our perspective. Devlin's account is an entertaining and waspish courtroom tour-de-force, but it lacks both a sense of the cumulative nature of the suspicious cases which led to the doctor's arrest and a feel for the dramatis personae beyond the legal antagonists. Jane Robins deals with both these aspects with great skill. Deftly marshalling the huge volume of source material, which includes the police files, tabloid reports, medical journals and Devlin's own trial notes, she constructs a taut and gripping narrative across nearly four decades of suspicious activity. Her background as a serious historian and journalist ensures meticulous research and detective skills. Robins skilfully delineates the characters of the suspected victims: the needy, highly-strung Bobbie Hullett, the once imperious, now vulnerable Edith Morell. The dapper and determined Hannam of The Yard, Bodkin Adams's not-quite-nemesis, is fleshed out by reference to his previous cases, and the milieu of Eastbourne drawing rooms and nursing homes in which the doctor sought preferment is atmospherically drawn. But it is the curious character of the doctor himself - silent at trial because considered by his defence counsel to be his own worst advocate - which emerges most forcefully in its acquisitive, controlling monstrosity. In her summing up of him, the author wisely avoids the scuttlebutt which bedevils other interpretations and underpins her assessment with expert medical assistance. One wonders whether, had the prosecuting Attorney General, "Reggie" Manningham-Buller, lain the evidence before the jury with half the skill with which Jane Robins lays it before the reader, the verdict might not have been different.


The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath
The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath
by Jane Robins
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder Will Out, 5 April 2010
To maintain suspense when recounting true crime requires considerable skill, and Jane Robins's account of the career and capture of one of the most famous murderers of the last century is as fast-paced as any whodunnit. The narrative cuts deftly from the modest backgrounds of the female victims, to the pursuit by the dogged detective, to the dramatic staging of the forensic proofs and finally to the gripping courtroom battle between Spilsbury and Marshall Hall - respectively the leading pathologist and criminal advocate of the era.
But this is more than a simple page-turner: Robins's background as a serious historian is evident in her use of primary sources, including Spilsbury's original case cards and contemporary newspaper accounts, to illuminate not only who and how, but also why. By building up a detailed picture of the insecure position of single women at the outbreak of WW1, Robins enables us to comprehend how the female desire for the status of matrimony could be so cynically exploited. Her scholarship is deployed with a light touch, using quotations from correspondence and court papers to delineate the characters of the victims and to demonstrate how George Joseph Smith was able to manipulate the gullible until the bitter end.


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