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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but ...., 8 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Mr Briggs' Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain's First Railway Murder: The True Story of a Victorian Railway Murder (Kindle Edition)
Meticulously researched and detailed, and well written with an easy flowing style, this ought to tick all the boxes. But fact is not fiction, and there are no twists or surprising revelations of the kind a fictional author might have inserted, and there are details and characters which a good fictional editor would have excised. This is really an observation not a criticism, and possibly a warning to those expecting a pseudo-thriller.

To labour the point, this is no dry mere historical account (I doubt KC could write anything in a boring style) but nor is it a dramatic reconstruction. And the problem for me was that although undoubtedly a sensation at the time, for reasons well explained by the author, by the modern standards we have come to expect (not only from fiction, sadly) this is not especially sensational, either in the facts of the crime or the process of the investigation and trial. It is interesting and instructive, particularly for those interested in the way the criminal justice system worked over a century ago and the public's involvement, but at times I confess I was hoping for something unexpected to happen.

There is also the problem of the conclusion. I don't want to introduce any spoilers for those who do not know how this case concluded but clearly there was conflicting evidence. And although the author does hint (I think) at what her preferred view is, I think she rightly avoids explicitly giving an opinion. So, for some I think, the uncertainty that must remain will be a disappointment.

The kindle edition is flawed in that, although the extensive notes at the end have active links to the relevant places in the body of the text, there are no indications (actively linked or not) in the text to those notes. I know extensive use of numbered foot or end notes in text can be distracting; but if they're present you can ignore them, and if they're not there having to separately go to the notes for each chapter (say) to check if there are any notes is more distracting in my view. And only coming to the notes at the end, as is possible if you've not read the list of contents carefully, is just annoying.

Finally, I agree with others who warn against looking at the photos if you don't want to know what happens at the trial until you're read the book. It would have been better if the relevant photos had been put at the end rather than in the middle
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