Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Mystery of Mary Rogers Review (Rick Geary)


On 28 July, 1841 a woman's body was found floating in the Hudson, off the shore of Hoboken, New Jersey. She'd been dead for a few days after being beaten and strangled. She was identified as Mary Rogers, the missing girl who worked in a popular cigar shop on Broadway. And so this strange story begins.

We meet the odd people in her life. Her fiancé who makes up an alibi different from his real story despite neither being incriminating. Her mother who reacts bizarrely to the news that her daughter is dead. The former lodger of her mother's house who had meetings with Mary in the days leading up to her death and then tried to have the investigation stopped for no reason.

Geary throws all of the murder’s theories into the book. The murder suspects include: a jealous ex-lover returning from a sea voyage and who becomes angry once his advances are repelled; an abortion gone wrong leads the abortionist faking Mary's death; the fiancé, once the abortion is complete, finds out that Mary wants to leave him and loses his temper.

In fact this last theory (and I've only mentioned three though there are more) is the most compelling, not least because the fiancé drinks himself unconscious every day until he eventually visits the spot where she was supposedly murdered and takes a lethal dose of laudanum.

Even Edgar Allan Poe is a suspect (though unlikely) as his sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue was based on the mysterious death of Mary Rogers, becoming The Mystery of Marie Roget. The short story bears many resemblances to the real life case but of course Poe is never really seen as a suspect having barely known the girl years earlier when he lived in New York (he was in Philadelphia at the time of the murder).

It's a testament to Geary's ability that he can take a long forgotten case of a dead young girl appearing on the Hudson River and turn it into such a fascinating and vivid book. The Mystery of Mary Rogers is a very satisfying and interesting comic told with skill and a swift pace akin to a thriller.

The Mystery of Mary Rogers

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