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Death at the Priory

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,116 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
The fatal poisoning of Charles Bravo in 1876 remains a great, unsolved mystery. As James Ruddick shows in this engrossing account, there was no shortage of suspects. Among them were Bravo's wife, Florence, who married the young barrister in part to erase the taint of a recent sexual scandal; Jane Cox, a servant caught spinning a web of lies about what happened the night Br ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 24th 2001 by Atlantic Books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Hannah
Rating Clarification: 4.5 Stars

I haven't been this invigorated by a good ole "husband behaving badly" book since I read Wedlock The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore. If Andrew Stoney was the crowned winner for the "Mr. Shitty Husband of the 18th Century" contest for his sociopathic antics documented in "Wedlock", then the heir apparent for the 19th century must surely pass to Charles Bravo (of this book). Fortunately for F
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Oct 30, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like their cold cases extra chilled
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: bookcrossing peoples
At first glance you might pick this up and think "ooh some kind of slightly sordid Nun/Vicar love tryst in buttoned up Victorian England which ultimately ends in murder most horrid."

Er, nope sorry you're wrong. This is the coldest of all the Cold Case files well, unless you count those people on National Geographic who are always trying to figure out if certain Egyptian Mummies were murdered and or were related to Tutankhamun but you should probably just ignore those because Egyptology is the mo
...more
Amy Sturgis
This is a study of the unsolved murder (by poisoning with antimony) of Charles Bravo (1845-1876), a young British barrister. The first half of the book recounts the story of Bravo's wife, her somewhat scandalous life before their marriage, and Bravo's own (mis)behavior until his death. The second half follows the author's new research and attempt to solve the murder (which is, for the most part, largely convincing). Ruddick should be applauded for the three-dimensional, sympathetic, and insightf ...more
Nina
Mar 28, 2012 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must for anyone who enjoys true crime and period books. It is set in the Victorian era, which makes it even more scandalous considering how stringent the rules of decorum were back then. I picked this book up randomly when I was going through a true crime reading phase. I could not put it down! How interesting it is to peek into the lives of this mysterious and scandalous murder from over 100 years ago. Amazing that this mystery is still kept alive. It is further eery by the fact ...more
Sarah
Jul 19, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting read of an old, unsolved murder mystery that took place in the 1870's. The author presents his argument about what actually happened, which was sometimes contrived, but I enjoyed the picture of Victorian life. A fairly quick and easy read.
Cleo Bannister
Poison was a familiar murder weapon in Victorian England with many a tale abounding of arsenic used to gain a fortune, do away with a rival or an inconvenient spouse.

In this book James Ruddick believes he has uncovered the real truth of the perpetrator of Charles Bravo’s death by poison in 1876. Charles Bravo was a rich man who suffered an agonising death spread over three days. Poison was the culprit and the inquest into his death lasted a lengthy five weeks with journalists sending stories to
...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
To be very honest, I first came across Florence Bravo, wife of murdered Charles Bravo, in the book by Mary S. Hartman called Victorian Murderesses so I had no idea what this book was going to be about before I picked it up and started reading. I have this thing about British murder cases past and present, so this one was right up my alley, offering an inside look into a Victorian home, family & society. It seems that Mr. Charles Bravo was poisoned in a most grueling and painful way at his ho ...more
Karyl
Sep 16, 2010 Karyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at an unsolved murder mystery in Victorian England. Florence Bravo, after suffering through an abusive first marriage, finds herself married to yet another abuser who insisted on forcing himself on her to produce an heir, even though she had miscarried two babies in a short span of time. But within five months of their wedding day, Charles Bravo collapsed and dies as a result of antimony poisoning. Who has administered the final dose? Several people close to Bravo have the mo ...more
Terry
The fatal poisoning of Charles Bravo in 1876 remains a great, unsolved mystery. As James Ruddick shows in this engrossing account, there was no shortage of suspects. Among them were Bravo's wife, Florence, who married the young barrister in part to erase the taint of a recent sexual scandal; Jane Cox, a servant caught spinning a web of lies about what happened the night Bravo died; and James Gully, an esteemed doctor who was also once Florence's lover. Death at the Priory is full of compelling p ...more
Pat
Jan 13, 2009 Pat rated it really liked it
This was quite a sensational murder in the late 1800s and no one was ever convicted of the murder though there was a lot of suspicion of both the wife, her ex-lover and her companion. This is also an example of a woman (the wife) being pilloried by Victorian society because she lived a non-conventional life (not quite a feminist, but definitely a free spirit in regard to her relationships) that everyone found out about as a result of the murder. The author recreates the murder scene as best he c ...more
Mary
Sep 19, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes true crime
Recommended to Mary by: Paperback Swap
In December of 1875, the beautiful widow Florence Ricardo married a handsome and influential young attorney named Charles Bravo. The dissolution of Florence's first marriage as well as the revelation of her affair with prominent doctor James Gully, had led to her becoming a social pariah. However, her marriage to Charles Bravo was Florence's way of escaping the scandals of her past; and she fervently hoped that such a marriage would reopen certain doors which had formerly been closed to her.

As t
...more
Tyler
Aug 26, 2013 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great slice of Victorian England focused on what is like to be a woman during the time. Kind of amazing protagonist and story. Agatha Christie couldn't figure it out? That actually doesn't surprise me.
Talulah Mankiller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janellyn51
This was interesting and a quick read...boy, those Victorian ladies didn't have a whole lot of options. I've never thought of myself as a feminist, but I think I would have become one if I lived then! Interestingly....I found it very difficult to like Florence...and I didn't like Florence Maybrick who I don't believe murdered her husband, but would have had just as many reasons as this Florence...if in fact this Florence did it! Who in thier right mind would think that if getting married meant t ...more
Simon Thompson
Feb 28, 2014 Simon Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feb 2014
This book has been hanging about on the "to-do" pile for years now. I don't know what made me choose it but I'm glad I did.

I'd heard about the celebrated Charles Bravo murder of 1876 but never knew the full story.

Apparently a whole whodunnit industry sprung up shortly after and public attention remained active for many decades.

The author, James Ruddick, does a great job of setting the scene, explaining the social mores of Victorian Britain and exploring all the possibilities of the mur
...more
Sarah
Jun 07, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie
"Death at the Priory" is a true crime book about an unsolved murder that occurred in 1876 in England. The book described Florence's life leading up to her husband's murder and gave social and historical details to help the reader understand what her life was like. He then described the murder using the information that was publicly available at the time of the murder. He then eliminated suspects using his research into crime records that weren't publicly available and into what happened to the v ...more
Laurie
Dec 11, 2014 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a non-fiction book in two parts: in the first half, the author tells what’s known about a murder that took place in 1875 England. In the second, he goes through the evidence and interviews descendants of the people involved and presents his theory of what happened.

Florence Campbell was the daughter of a well to do upper middle class family who had the worst luck in relationships. She married Alexander Ricardo, who was in the service, and demanded that he resign because she feared for hi
...more
Ally Wampler
Picked this little diddy up from the shared library in our apt building... glad i did. it was a delightful murder mystery.

A brief synopsis: I usually save these for the private notes, but this one is just so juicy....

Florence marries Charles Bravo. He beats her, rapes her, and tries to force her to get pregnant again after several miscarriages that have left her weak and very ill. Another pregnancy may do her in. Charles also has plans to fire Florence's mistress/paid companion Mrs Cox and has
...more
Amy
Apr 15, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I've been slogging along with my reading list this year, but I stayed up late last night to power through this book.

I found the true crime section of my local library not long ago, and I was glancing over titles and "Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England" got my attention like nothing else. So many things I like to read about!

This is definitely an interesting read. There's kind of a fun "whodunnit" section where the author lays out the case for and against various suspects. The author's cl
...more
Chana
Well- researched, well written and more entertaining than a game of Clue! On April 18, 1876 someone gave James Bravo a fatal dose of antimony. Was it the housekeeper, the stableman, the wife, the wife's ex-lover, or Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the billiards room? Or perhaps even Charles himself? The case is true, the characters tragic, the coincidences fabulous. I mean, "Bravo, Gully!"? The mind just boggles. A recommended read.
Hope
Aug 04, 2015 Hope rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starts off strong, but falls apart in the second half. Like another reviewer below, I felt that Ruddick didn't seem to grasp the horrors of what Bravo did to Florence and was too breezy in describing Bravo's violent abuse of his wife. Certainly, Ruddick fails to imagine that her later alcoholism could be the result of this trauma, rather than any guilt. I didn't find his 'explanation' of the various motives in the case very convincing, particularly because of the way the book is structured and h ...more
Paul S.
Mar 09, 2016 Paul S. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
This is not a bad book. Its reads well. The only problem is that the author's solution is almost identical to one written by John Williams in the 1950s. Nothing wrong with this, except the author never acknowledges the fact. Bad practice, surely. He is aware of the earlier book because he references it - albeit extremely briefly.

The BBC touted that this book solved the case. Well, if it did, the case had been solved for 50 years. But, given all the evidence, does this book give even the best ans
...more
Sean
Apr 10, 2015 Sean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As with any good "mystery," the first line is, often, the most important to grab my attention: "On a warm April morning in 1876, the body of a young barrister named Charles Bravo was carried out of a house in Balham, south London." I was, certainly, prepared and intrigued to settle in for something great! While the first part of Ruddick's history is largely narrative (in keeping with what continues making a good "mystery" good), the following parts seemed more bogged down in recounting facts and ...more
Trish
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barbara
May 29, 2008 Barbara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: true crime lovers
This was an interesting story, because it gave a realistic peek into life in Victorian England. It read well for non-fiction, although the author repeated various quotes too often for my taste.
Sandra D
Jul 17, 2008 Sandra D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandra D by: Stephanie
The author's self-congratulatory tone in describing his solution to this mystery was a jarring note in what was otherwise a quick, enjoyable read.
Jen
Mar 01, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plausible solution, but who knows if the author's explanation is what happened or if the crime ever really will be solved.
Heather Lewis
The topic is very fascinating and Ruddick presented it very well but overall the book was lack luster. The first half of the book is an introduction to the characters in the murder and then details of the murder. The second half of the book is his own thoughts and views on the subject. I appreciated how detailed and thorough he was with history in regards to women's rights as well as the struggle many women dealt with on a daily basis. The main drawback and or annoyance with the book is the cons ...more
Rachael
Jun 11, 2015 Rachael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author wrote like a pompous ass. Ambiguity was fact when it fit his story, but hearsay or dubious when it didn't.
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