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Dancing for the Hangman Paperback – 25 Nov 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Flambard Press (25 Nov. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906601003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906601003
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.9 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 987,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Jun. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dancing for the Hangman is a fictionalised account of Hawley Harvey Crippen’s life leading up to 23 November 1910 when he was hanged by John Ellis at Pentonville Prison in London for the murder of his wife Cora.

Martin Edwards has written a book that seeks to explain the psychology and events that led to this seemingly mild-mannered man who committed (if that is indeed the case) the crime and then who fled from England to Brussels with his secretary Ethel Le Neve. There they boarded a ship to Canada where they could begin a new life. Unluckily for Crippen the ship’s captain Henry Kendall became suspicious of the man and his son (Ethel was disguised as a boy), he was well aware that the police were hunting the pair as the newspapers were full of the story. Using the latest wireless telegraph technology, word was sent that British authorities that the cellar murderer was on board the Montrose and there was only ever going to be one ending to this story, wasn’t there?

So convincing is this tale that I will undoubtedly repeat the fictionalised parts as fact for years to come as it was impossible to tell where the truth ended, and where Martin Edwards has used conjecture in this ‘true confession’ We are taken back to Crippen’s life as a young man, his first marriage to Charlotte and her untimely death which led to him leaving his two-year-old son Otto in the care of his parents while he travelled to New York to practice as a homeopathic doctor.

We travel backwards and forward with Crippen as he meets and falls deeply and passionately in love with Cora and at first all appears well. Crippen supports his wife in her wish to tread the boards and despite set-backs in his professional life this only illustrates his resourceful nature.
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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew very little about the infamous Dr Crippen before I read this book apart from the fact he was apprehended on his way to Canada and brought back to the UK to stand trial for the murder of his wife, Cora. Even though the book is billed as fictionalised history I found myself wondering where the fiction ended and the truth began.

The story consists of Crippen's version of events written when he was awaiting the outcome of his appeal and before his subsequent hanging. Interspersed with this fascinating story are transcriptions of newspaper cuttings, extracts from evidence given at his trial and conversations he may have had with his solicitor. The way the media sought to manipulate events helped to bring the story to life for me.

Crippen - instead of a cold blooded monster - comes over as a clever man dominated by the women in his life by means of his physical relationships with them. I did not find him particularly likeable though I could appreciate his ability to cope with material misfortune and his apparent regard for and appreciation of women. He comes over as both naive and knowledgeable by turns about human nature Was he like this? I don't know but to me his motivations made sense and I could understand how someone like this could have found himself in this situation.

I thought the relationship between Crippen and the investigating officer - Dew - was well done, as was Crippen's relationship with Ethel Le Neve. Did things really happen like this? It is up to the reader to decide but to my mind it is possible it happened like this. I found the book well written and interesting and the author certainly appears to have got inside the murderer's mind and produced a plausible explanation for Crippen's statement that he was innocent of the murder.

Even if you prefer 'true crime' give this a try - you will not be disappointed and neither will the crime fiction fan.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not knowing much about Dr Crippen, I embarked on Martin Edwards’s most fascinating interpretation of his memoirs which cleverly merges fact with fiction. Supposedly written from his prison cell, Crippen’s life story is unravelled in quite an intriguing way from his cold childhood in Michigan to his life as a well-respected doctor in Edwardian London and not forgetting the women who dominated and were ultimately the downfall in his life. With extracts from his murder trial included, everything came together like pieces of a puzzle towards an inevitable ending.
A brilliant, well researched book – highly recommended for readers of historical crime.
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If you're a reader who likes your crime novel in the `whodunnit' format, starting with a corpse and leading through the forensic skills and persistence of a detective to the satisfaction of someone being `brought to justice' as the modern cliché runs, then this one is not for you.
If, on the other hand, your taste is more towards exploring the characters of both the perpetrator and the victim of a serious crime like murder, then `Dancing for the Hangman' is the perfect marriage of `true crime' and literary fiction.
I say `perpetrator' because for most readers the notorious Dr Crippen is the one who poisoned his wife to make room for his mistress and then amateurishly buried her remains in the coal cellar of their marital home. In all the years since 1910 the name of Crippen is still a metaphor for the ruthless and cunning poisoner, fit to be displayed at Tussauds along with other murderers of a later generation like Christie and Haigh. But Edwards doesn't show us a waxworks image - we get the real man - one with whom we can empathise and perhaps even feel sympathy for. His portrait of Crippen is as much a picture in words as, say, is Holbein's famous portrait of Thomas Cromwell in paint. The man stares out at you, in Crippen's case more likely blinks out, and you know you'd have no trouble recognising him in the street, even today.
The author takes on the role of detective, showing us what may have happened and offering a plausible alternative to the conventional account of this bit of criminal history. The detective novel turned inside-out.
Edwards's Crippen is a victim, every bit as much as the dead woman.
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