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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Curious Habits of Dr Adams
I am not sure whether you should say that you 'enjoyed' a book about a real life murder trial, but I thought this was absolutely gripping from start to finish. It is the story of family doctor, John Bodkin Adams, who was accused in 1957 of murdering a patient in the hopes of inheriting her Rolls-Royce. If the charge seems bizarre, then so was much about Dr Adams - who...
Published 10 months ago by S Riaz

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously unsatisfying
WARNING MAY GIVE AWAY THE ENDING!
This is a very well written and thorough retelling of the events surrounding a 1950's court case, but in the end it comes down to speculation. Dr Adams is unpleasant and rather strange, but is he a mass murderer, that remains unproven. I would like to have known how the death rates among his patients compared with other doctors at...
Published 7 months ago by KAW


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Curious Habits of Dr Adams, 25 May 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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I am not sure whether you should say that you 'enjoyed' a book about a real life murder trial, but I thought this was absolutely gripping from start to finish. It is the story of family doctor, John Bodkin Adams, who was accused in 1957 of murdering a patient in the hopes of inheriting her Rolls-Royce. If the charge seems bizarre, then so was much about Dr Adams - who had "curious habits" indeed, and who was the focus of much gossip and innuendo long before the case he was accused of went to trial.

Jane Robins does a masterful job of recreating this era and making you feel you are actually in Court during the trial. However, she begins with a brief biography of Dr Adams, who eventually became a GP in genteel Eastbourne. There are then several case histories of the doctor and how he treated elderly patients, who seemed to die with some regularity and under odd circumstances. Staff were suspicious of the GP - of how regularly he ended up in their wills, of how he took 'keepsakes' and the amount of drugs he gave them. These cases go all the way back to 1935 and the author has really done an excellent job in recreating events about these patients and their treatment, discussing several cases in great detail. However, the widowed lady who died, and who eventually caused the police to become interested in the doctor, was Bobbie Hullett and that was the murder he was initially accused of.

This was an interesting time for GP's, as most had resisted joining the recently founded NHS and were, at the time of Dr Adams arrest, considering going on strike. When Dr Adams was arrested, by the wonderfully named Superintendent Herbert Hannan, the case was seen as both personal and political. If a GP was blamed for the death of his elderly patients, more could be accused. Were the claims sensationalist, or were they more than rumour, blame and gossip? Some, like journalist Percy Hoskins, of the Daily Express, felt the press were taking events and making them sound worse than they were. Very like the case of Harold Shipman, opinions in the town where Dr Adams worked were highly divided. Some of his patients felt he was the best doctor they had ever known - caring, compassionate and hard working. Others felt he was money grabbing, rude and, in some cases, downright dangerous.

The trial took place at the Old Bailey in 1957 and it is recreated in fantastic detail. You will have to read the book yourself, follow the evidence and then decide whether or not you feel that Dr Adams was guilty or innocent. This book will certainly give you enough evidence to make your own opinions about the case and this would certainly be an excellent choice for reading groups - I am sure opinions will be as divided as they were at the time and it would lead to interesting discussions.

I have one complaint about this kindle book - the illustrations were included, but they are so small as to lose all of their detail and the writing is virtually unreadable. A publisher would not bring out a hardback copy of this book with the illustrations virtually lost - so, why do so in a kindle version? Kindle books are popular and often outselling paper copies and it is time the publishers treated kindle readers with the respect they deserve and produce the book properly - not as a poor second, with quality lost and the experience marred by shoddy work. Other publishers manage to produce illustrations properly, so it obviously can be done - and should be, or the price dropped accordingly. That aside, this is a truly riveting read and if you enjoy historical true crime books, this is one of the best I have read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How do you find this man - guilty or innocent?, 19 Aug 2013
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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In 1957, Dr John Adams, a general practitioner from Eastbourne, was tried for the murder of an elderly patient, ostensibly because he hoped to inherit her Rolls Royce. The investigation leading up to the trial was a press sensation, with rumours abounding that Adams had murdered as many as 300 patients. This book tells the story of the investigation and trial, and Jane Robins asks the reader to judge whether the eventual verdict was right or wrong - was Adams a mass-murderer in the mold of Harold Shipman or was he a maligned man?

After the trial the police files were sealed, but a decade ago they were re-opened following a successful Freedom of Information request. Robins has based much of the book on these files and on the record of the trial, and has also spoken to some of the children of the alleged victims. She tells us how the press reported the story, before and after the trial, and sets the book in its historical context by reminding the reader of what other events were happening around the same time as the deaths under investigation - the coronation of the Queen, the Suez crisis etc.

Adams himself was either a hard-working, caring GP who went out of his way to be available to his patients at all times of the day or night; or he was a scheming manipulative murderer who preyed on the elderly people, mainly women, who trusted him. He was either a kind man who popped in to see these often lonely people without being specifically asked; or he was an unscrupulous monster, forcing unnecessary medical treatments on people too weak and needy to refuse. He was either generous enough with his time to help these old people to manage their financial affairs; or he was an avaricious crook, using his position to force them to make him a beneficiary in their wills and then hastening their deaths to prevent them changing their minds.

Robins handles the mass of information available to her well, telling the complex story clearly and plainly. She brings the various participants to life - the police officer investigating the case, the journalists reporting on it and the various residents of Eastbourne who were either for or against Adams. The picture of Adams himself is of course crucial and Robins shows him through the eyes of both his supporters and accusers, leaving the reader to judge the truth of the man.

The trial itself was apparently a huge sensation, the longest murder trial that had ever been held in Britain at that time, and the description of it is fascinating. Robins shows us each witness and how they held up under the questioning of the defence team, led by noted barrister Geoffrey Lawrence. Since I didn't know the outcome of the trial, the tension built nicely and I found myself arguing along with both prosecution and defence at different points. The judge wrote about the trial years later and this allows Robins to show us what his opinion was, not just of Adams, but also of the evidence and the conduct of the case. And finally, Robins wraps up with the aftermath of the case in terms of politics, the press and the people involved; and only then does she give us her own verdict on Adams.

All-in-all, I found this a fascinating, absorbing read. I have carefully tried to avoid spoilers since, although obviously the case and its outcome is a matter of public record, I assume there will be other people like myself who don't know about it, in which case this can easily be read as an intriguing mystery as well as a thoroughly researched and very well told history of a true investigation. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Strange World of 1950s Eastbourne, 13 Jan 2014
By 
Balraj Gill (Slough, Berkshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Curious Habits of Dr. Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery (Paperback)
I was looking forward to this book after greatly enjoying "The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath", the previous book by Jane Robins. I am glad to report that "The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams" was just as good, if not better in certain respects.

Robins here takes you on a journey back to the Eastbourne of the mid-20th century and specifically, the well-off widows living in grand houses complete with maids and nurses and of course a local doctor by the name of Adams, only too keen to come round to check up on these widows and ensure that their legal and financial affairs are taken care of..... before bumping them off with mega doses of morphine! I simplify here of course and at first glance, this seems to be the case, but the real beauty here is that what you think is a simple open and shut case becomes much more multi-faceted and nuanced when the court case arrives at the Old Bailey in 1957.

For me, the real hero of this book is Geoffrey Lawrence, the defence barrister for Dr. Adams. His mastery, both of the facts and of the English language, had me in awe. Lawrence easily outfoxes the prosecution's Manningham-Buller (the Attorney-General no less) via some delightful questioning of the nurses who were around at the time of the doctor's drug administering. But the most wonderful chapter sees the "mousy" Lawrence pitched against Dr. Arthur Douthwaite, the handsome, elegant physician whose commanding and lofty manner was banked on by the prosecution to seal their case. However, by the time that Lawrence had finished with him in court, Douthwaite was a broken man - even the judge thought that Douthwaite's testimony was "shambolic".

"The Curious Habits" is a great read and I think it would appeal to anyone who has an interest either in medicine, criminal law or British social history.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally engaging and perceptive account and analysis of one of the most famous murder trials and the background to it, 24 May 2013
By 
J. A. Lloyd (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This is an excellent book, a more than worthy successor to Ms. Robin's earlier work on Sir Bernard Spilsbury and the Brides in the Bath murders. The trial of Dr. John Bodkin Adams was undobtedly one of most interesting and most sensational of the 20th century and had interesting parallels with the later case of Dr. Harold Shipman, in that although Dr. Adams was only tried for one murder it wass widely rumoured that he had killed perhaps hundreds of his elderly patients.

There have been quite a number of other books about this case but in my opinion it is clearly the best account of the case as a whole, that is to say the story of Dr. Adams's career and the social milieu in which he lived and practised before and after the Second World War (the trial was in 1957). The author's style is clear and vivacious, and she marshalls the fruits of her extensive research skilfully providing an insightful description of the events and character involved which adroitly avoids the pitfall of providing insufficient evidence of what is asserted or the opposite one of tedious recitation of minutiae. Ms Robins knows how to keep the narrative moving while both informing and entertaining (and quite often amausing) her readers.

A conspicuous virtue of the book is the author's ability to make clear what is fact and what is opinion, and openly to acknowledge those matters where one cannot be certain either of what happened or what was in someone's mind. She has taken the unusual step of taking a psychiatrist's opinion about Dr. Adams, and in the final chapter on the basis of that and her own assessment of the evidence ses out her own views on his guilt or innocence. This chapter is partiicularly notable for the way in which the author encourages the reader to look at all of the aspects and form his or her own opinion, while setting out clearly what her own view is and why she holds it.

I would unhesitatingly recommend this book. I spotted only one tiny, insignificant error, and the fact that I did so perhaps serves only to point up the quality of the photographic reproduction in the book.Dr. Adams had a penchant for motor cars, particularly Rolls-Royces, and one of the photos is captioned "Dr. Adams rides out in his customary Rolls-Royce..." For those who think the radiator grille is not quite the traditional classic shape, the answer is in the badge at its apex - it reads "MG".

The dramatic climax of this story is of course the trial, which is well handled in the book: for those who would like an even more detailed account with the analysis of the ultimate insider, I would recommend (if you can find it) "Easing the Passing" by the trial judge, Patrick Devlin, published in 1985. Ms. Robins quite rightly quotes from it extensively, but even after you have read her excellent treatment of this story, Lord Devlin's acerbic account of the trial, with its unforgettable skewering of the leading prosecution counsel "Reggie" (as he is referred to throughout) Manningham Buller, cannot fail to impress and amuse.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book, 23 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Curious Habits of Dr. Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery (Paperback)
A well written book and as I have previous knowledge of the circumstances (not first hand) the the book is well written and clearly identifies the circumstances in which Dr Adams worked.
For those who are not fully aware of the situation the book clarifies how in that era this kind of thing might happen.
A useful book for professionals who might be interested in hierarchy of the medical profession in the 50's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Read, 13 Oct 2013
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I am a fan of true crime books and especially enjoy those of a historical nature such as The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. Being set in the 1950's and not having heard of Dr Adams before I was a little apprehensive about whether this book would interest me. I couldn't have been more wrong - I was gripped from the first page and read the whole book in a day. Highly recommended!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars good doctor, 9 April 2014
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this makes very good reading and exposes how easy these people could control and rob people something like todays conservative party
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5.0 out of 5 stars REAL MURDER, 2 April 2014
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A. Murray "Alexander" (Kenilworth) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Curious Habits of Dr. Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery (Paperback)
Such an absorbing story. I knew quite a bit already, but to have it laid out so expertly made for a great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A mass murderer?, 12 Mar 2014
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Shankly (Coventry England) - See all my reviews
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Everything I had previously read of the case of Dr John Bodkin Evans had left me with the impression that he was a fussy and incompetent physician. Reading this book has made me revise that opinion. Read it and make up your own mind.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Looks interesting. But..., 18 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Curious Habits of Dr. Adams: A 1950s Murder Mystery (Paperback)
Have to say I started it but found it clumsily written and did not hold my attention. I am sorry!
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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 (Paperback - 12 Sep 2013)
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