Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Case of Madeleine Smith Review (Rick Geary)

Set in mid-19th century Glasgow, Madeleine Smith, a well-to-do young woman, embarks on an affair with a young man of lower class. When she becomes engaged to a wealthy older man, she breaks off the affair. Afraid that the affair will come to light, its suggested, she kills her former lover by serving him hot chocolate laced with enough arsenic to fell 40 men. 

After his death, she is arrested, tried, and found not guilty. She might have done it but then her former lover had a dramatic side and had attempted suicide before - maybe this time he succeeded? After the trial she moves to London and then later New York where she dies. The end.

That was it?! I expected Geary to throw a curveball into the story to explain why he'd chosen such a bland, uninteresting case to explore in his otherwise excellent series. But no, nothing, that really is the whole story unfortunately: she might have poisoned one man or she might not have. In the end, you don't really care. 

The book is taken up with the mundane life stories of Madeleine Smith and her lover Emile L'Angier, and we're forced to read the lovenotes of the usual calibre of the lovesick "I miss you" "I love you" blah blah blah. This was the first book in Geary’s Victorian Murder series where I was counting the pages til the end. 

When you look back at the trumphs Rick Geary has produced in his series like The Beast of Chicago where H H Holmes has his sick hotel of death and scores of victims, or the assassination of Abe Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and a major turning point in American history as a result, you have to wonder why Madeleine Smith, an unknown “possible” murderess, was included in the roster at all. 

Do give this book a miss. Do check out the other books in Geary's excellent series.

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Case of Madeleine Smith

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