Another compulsive read from the pen of Peter Maggs. Set amid the social mores of Victorian England, a professional man of dubious moral character is charged with murder. Questionable legal and medical competence, together with some of the worst excesses of human frailty contrive to sentence him to death. The details of this extraordinary case were variously reported in the newspapers of the day, but Peter Maggs' extensive research presents a fresh, unbiased appraisal, affording the reader the opportunity to decide just how 'lucky' Smethurst was.
i started to read this book with a degree of apprehension as I feared the subject matter and the detailed descriptions of the court proceedings would be rather dry. Within a few pages, though, my fears were quickly overcome as Peter Maggs succeeds in telling a really fascinating story of the circumstances surrounding the trial of Thomas Smethurst as well as the trial itself. The level of detail is pitched just right and the compilation of information from multiple sources into a easy-flowing timeline is highly successful - I never felt lost in the sequence of events. This book can also be enjoyed as a social commentary - the state of medical knowledge and practice, the integrity of the legal profession and the social mores of the time. I can only recommend it !
Smethurst's Luck: The Story of Thomas Smethurst, "The Richmond Poisoner" - This is a real Victorian drama, complete with charges of bigamy, poisoning, medical remedies that were probably worse than any poisoner could have administered, biased judge, incompetent analyst and a delicate lady as the victim. It was all covered in the court reports and newspapers of the day, and Dr Maggs' meticulous research brings it all to light in this very readable account.
I found this book gripping in so many ways. My curiosity about Smethurst's innocence or guilt was immediately aroused but over and above that I was caught up in the almost unbelievable and even barbaric medical practices of the day. It makes our current NHS system positively glow! It was a revelation too about the judicial system and the media influence.
This book has been meticulously researched and succinctly written, with a welcome touch of dry humour!
Smethurst's Luck: The Story of Thomas Smethurst, "The Richmond Poisoner"I had decided to read Smethurst's Luck quickly, over 2 or 3 days, but I needn't have bothered as the narrative drew me into it hastening me on to the conclusion. This is a genuinely factual story illustrated with contemporary material. Real life stories are often more incredible than fiction and this is no exception. Best to hope something similar doesn't happen to you.
Like Peter Maggs' previous book, Henry's Trials, you will find this just as difficult to put down once started! Again, meticulously researched and a fascinating contemporary review be Peter of the faulty science, questionable law and newspaper hype that nearly sent a man to the gallows. It has all the ingredients of the best of Victorian 'who done its' and yet these were real events - a must read.
This is another major drama of its time, brought to life by Peter through extensive research, an eye for detail and a dark sense of humour. It is hard to imagine being in such a position, where a mixture of bad science and questionable judgement can result in a date with the noose. That is the criminal justice system described vividly in the pages of this book.
Peter Maggs has managed to entertain and inform us with the dubious chemistry of the Victorian times,even though he has to,rightly,slag off my namesake and fellow chemist. And it is a more fluid read than his baptismal volume.