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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exhaustive study ...
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...
Published 15 months ago by Polymath

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is mistitled
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...
Published 16 months ago by Tigersuzy


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exhaustive study ..., 27 Mar. 2014
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A non-fiction Victorian page turner, 22 April 2014
By 
K. Mayfield (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I read this astonishing account of the Maybrick case scarcely taking a breath over the course of two days. With great skill and command, Kate Colquhoun, author of another page-turner, Mr. Briggs' Hat, has given us the tragic story of Florence Maybrick, a Southern belle transplanted to Victorian Liverpool, and her fight for justice against the backdrop of gender inequality and the social structures of the time.

Often a harrowing read, Colquhoun relays in detail Florence's husband James Maybrick's spiralling physical condition caused by his self-medicating addiction and hypochondria, resulting in his deterioration and, finally, two gruesome autopsies. The slow, excruciating isolation and ruin of Florence, who is accused of poisoning her husband, climaxes in a grippingly narrated trial. I was swept away by the author's keen observations, her immense research and her ability to engage us in the facts in a stylish and novelistic way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An utterly compeling read, 25 April 2014
This review is from: Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic (Hardcover)
Did She Kill Him? is a compelling account of a real-life courtroom drama, underpinned by the intriguing themes of deception, adultery and death by arsenic poisoning. The powerful opening grips the reader from the outset as Florence Maybrick prepares to face the life-or-death verdict in her trial for the murder of her husband, James. ‘Worldly but not wise,’ Florence is trapped in a conventional marriage and behind the wealthy façade of Battlecrease House in the suburbs of Liverpool, lies a life of boredom, isolation and loneliness. As we explore the back-story to this infamous case, the cracks in the respectable veneer of not only the Maybrick household, but in middle class Victorian relationships soon appear.

This classic criminal case is re-told with the consummate skill and infectious passion of Kate Colquhoun. With meticulous research and poignant snippets from Florence’s diary, she recreates the story and pieces together the events that conspired to place her in the dock for murder. Kate’s evocative descriptions and rich detail bring the characters fully back to life, with all their hypocrisies, flaws and ambiguities. Written with all the tension and pace of a novel, the suspense is maintained throughout the twists and turns of the drama. Although the central question is that of whether Florence Maybrick murdered her husband, this book goes much further as Kate explores gender issues in the late-Victorian period and the legacy of the sexual politics that still remains present today.

Did She Kill Him? is a fascinating and thought-provoking book and I would highly recommend it.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is mistitled, 14 Mar. 2014
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars More Victorian social history than crime investigation, 29 Jun. 2015
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The main content of this book is not an examination of the events leading up to the death of Florence Maybrick's husband James and an assessment of whether or not she did kill him - in fact, the author doesn't really give you her opinion about this. The book is mostly about the trial of Florence for the murder and whether the evidence was enough to convict her. The author also examines Florence's story in the context of the situation of women in Victorian England with especial reference to the criminal justice system. I enjoyed what she presented and have, as every reader will, formed my own view based on the evidence she provides - I am pretty sure, however, that there wasn't enough evidence provided to the court to convict.

Because so much of the book concentrates on the trial the book goes into a lot of detail about James' illness and the events surrounding it. This does become a bit tedious in places especially when most of it is repeated in the trial scenes. The author tries to enliven this by writing some scenes in a novelistic way, assuming people's emotions and what is said. Possibly this is all backed up by Florence's diary but you do wonder at times whether some of it is not just in the mind of the author.

I did, however, find this a gripping read. I thought that the author set out the facts very clearly and showed well why the evidence provided to the court didn't stack up. Some of the ways in which Florence was treated are eye opening - including when she is locked away in a bedroom by her brother-in-law and when she is arrested for murder without any post-mortem results having confirmed that this is how James died. The author does spend some time showing us how Florence was treated and why she lost the respect and the impartiality of the judge - his summing up of the case seemed to conclude that because she had had an affair she was so corrupt and evil that she must also have committed murder.

If you are interested in Victorian social history or in true crime you should enjoy this retelling of an interesting case.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well, did she?, 11 May 2014
By 
Shankly (Coventry England) - See all my reviews
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Did Florence Maybrick murder her husband James in 1889? Was he murdered by anybody? Did he die of natural causes, by his own hand, accidentally, over-medication by inept doctors, killed by one of his brothers? Nobody really knew then, although many people convinced themselves that they knew at the time. And we still don't know because this book doesn't answer the question.
Read it yourself and make up your own mind. I did.
Very well researched and evocative of the times and mores of Victorian England and specifically middle-class Liverpool.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Arsenic or Strychnine?, 19 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic (Hardcover)
The author deftly avoids consideration of whether Maybrick died of strychnine poisoning,perhaps because this is the theory of those who contend that he was Jack the Ripper.
The style is good except for a few Americanisms ("taking the stand" and "summation").There is insufficient consideration of the judge's mental health and the formation of the Court of Appeal as a result of this case.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forensic evaluation of a crowded marriage, 18 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good example of the downside of Kindling., 9 Feb. 2015
An excellent account of a complex case but the story itself ends at 59%, with no indicative reference anywhere in the main text (on my KK anyway) to the footnotes, etc, which would have added greatly to my reading had I known they were there. Therefore I came upon 40% of appendices which were irrelevant by that stage!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Non-fiction or fiction?, 5 April 2014
By 
Martynrb (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic (Hardcover)
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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