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This review is from: The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath (Kindle Edition)
This marvellously readable book is much more about Bernard Spilsbury's work than his life. The framework used for it is the chronology of the famous `Brides in the Bath' case in which George Joseph Smith disposed of three of his wives by drowning in order to collect their savings and their life insurance. It is the story of a conman in an age when respectable young women were desperate to marry and have their own homes rather than be left to eke out a miserable and lonely existence in a boarding house or as a poor relation in the homes of their male relations.
The descriptions of Spilsbury's painstaking work to understand the dead bodies on which he worked and how they met their death make compelling reading. While the book mainly follows the development of the Brides in the Bath case it also covers some of his other cases such as that of Dr Crippen and the Armstrong poisoning case. Spilsbury first came to public attention in the Crippen trial but it was the Brides in the Bath which made his name. Thereafter he was regarded as infallible and it may be that there were some miscarriages of justice because a jury would assume that if Splisbury was involved the accused must be guilty.
But it is not Spilsbury himself who dominates the book - it is George Joseph Smith. I did not know much about the case before I read this book and I was intrigued to learn about the way he was finally caught. Newspapers featured his last murder - that of Margaret Lofty - as a human tragedy and that caused relatives of his previous victims to write to the police at Scotland Yard. The letter landed on the desk of Detective Inspector Arthur Neil who was sufficiently intrigued by the coincidences to investigate further.
The book raises some interesting points about the development of science and its application to the detection of crime. What is regarded as irrefutable fact at one point in history may subsequently be proved to be completely wrong at a later date. Ideas of what information should be given to the pathologist before the post mortem is carried out have changed completely since the early days of Spilsbury's career.
If you are interested in true crime then you will enjoy this book. There are notes on each chapter and a bibliography though no index in the e-book edition which I read and no illustrations.