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The Mile End Murder: The Case Conan Doyle Couldn't Solve Hardcover – 7 Sep 2017
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About the Author
SINCLAIR MCKAY is the bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, The Lost World of Bletchley Park, The Secret Life of Fighter Command and The Secret Listeners for Aurum, as well as histories of Hammer films, the James Bond films and the pastime of rambling. He lives in London.
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But ... nothing was straight forward. In a case where circumstantial evidence of dubious quality was king, and where surprise witness after surprise witness did nothing but muddy the waters of truth, a verdict was reached that in all likelihood was not safe by any modern standards.
Sinclair Mckay skilfully weaves a tapestry as he describes the murder, the investigation, the lives of the key players and what happened before, during and after the trial. The description of what living in London was like for those who, in today's terminology could be described as JAM (Just About Managing), was particularly fascinating and horrific in equal measure.
And finally, using his wealth of knowledge and meticulous research, McKay is able to reach his own conclusion about what hoaxed that fateful night. I found it hard to disagree with his alternative version of what might have happened to the unfortunate Mrs Emsley.
This book, from start to finish, was simply wonderful and I was sorry when it ended. The writing is fresh and spirited, the descriptions vivid and cinematic.
Five stars all the way. Couldn't be anything else.
McKay weaves the story well, building a compelling picture of the lonely and bitter life of the Widow Emsley prior to her murder. He then takes the reader through the case, the trial, and its aftermath, prior to presenting his own theory as to whodunnit. His conclusions in this respect are quite plausible, although a couple of other suspects could be equally guilty – as with all these very cold cases, the truth will probably never be known.
One feature I particularly liked was that the pictures in the centre of the book were very carefully captioned so as not to give the game away before you read the rest of the book – something other authors, editors and publishers should look into.
Understandably, McKay makes reference to the now more famous case at Road involving Jack Whicher, although the cases couldn’t be further apart in most respects. However, both serve to underline the difficulties the emerging police force faced during the Victorian Era in a time when modern forensics were a far-off dream.
An interesting read for fans of real crime and unsolved cases, although Conan-Doyle makes only the most fleeting of appearances.
I really liked the way the story drew me along so that I was thinking along the same lines as the press and the public for part of the way, thus I could see how they had come to their probably erroneous conclusions. There are parallels today with the way the media and press tend to lead the prevailing views of our time whether right or wrong.
Part way through, I found that I was beginning to analyse the circumstances and try to decide on guilt or innocence. The focus of the police was too much on certain characters whilst not pursuing other lines. The tragedy is that a man was hanged before other possibilities began to be evident.
The story also illustrates the history of the legal system. Fortunately, that has changed.
Throughout the whole story, it is evident that there is much in today’s world of poverty that has not really changed at all.
This is a fascinating window into life in East London in the 1860s.
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