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A capital Victorian murder,
This review is from: Mr Briggs' Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain's First Railway Murder (Hardcover)
This page-turner of a real life account opens with the gruesome crime scene - the blood spattered over the first class carriage of a train, a discarded leather bag, an ivory-knobbed walking stick and a hat. The scene is so vivid that it hooks the reader straightaway taking them on a journey with a narrative which races at breakneck speed, hurtling along the track with all the twists and turns of a Victorian `sensation' novel. Tension mounts as we follow Mr Briggs to his office, unaware of his inevitable fate that is waiting for him on his way home from work.
Kate Colquhoun captures perfectly the spirit of the Victorian age: the extraordinary innovations of technology at odds with the deep-seated anxiety of the unknown. Mr Briggs is about to find himself at the heart of a frenzied public debate as his murder embodies the middle class commuters' worst fears.
The voyeuristic frisson of intrigue and speculation is accompanied by rich and evocative description. Compelling detail and a deft touch bring the past to life through a vivid portrayal of everyday life in the vibrant metropolis of 1860s London.
The real life investigation that follows Thomas Briggs' murder is reminiscent of the detective novels of the time. Through the skilful writing of Kate Colquhoun, we follow the leads of the detectives as they examine clues that could have been lifted straight from the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle. The suspense builds as the investigation climaxes in a cross-Atlantic chase and the suspect's arrest in New York.
The ensuing courtroom drama has all the excitement and suspense of a modern film sequence, heightened by an underlying ambiguity of whether the suspect is guilty or innocent. Ambivalent to the end, the reader is left with an all-pervading sadness over the fate of possibly two victims.
Mr Briggs' Hat is real life crime at its very best.