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Death at the Priory
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Death at the Priory

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  843 ratings  ·  107 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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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
Oct 30, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
Nancy Oakes
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
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
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
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
Sep 19, 2014 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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 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
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
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
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.
May 29, 2008 Barbara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Plausible solution, but who knows if the author's explanation is what happened or if the crime ever really will be solved.
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2007 bookcrossing journal:

I really enjoyed this book - read it in two days. It's good history without being dry; but also great as a murder mystery and a story so I don't think the fact that it is a history book should put people off giving this one a try.

Something right at the start in the introduction caught my eye - the guy who wrote this works/or at least has worked at York University! I haven't studied there, but I am living in York at the moment.

I'd actually like to read more history like
This book covers a true life Victorian death under suspect circumstances and the Author's attempt to discover the true murderer.

In 1875, the wealthy widow Florence Ricardo marries ambitious barrister Charles Bravo. Less than six months later he was dead, as a result of poisoning by antimony.

Florence's first marriage was to a heavy drinker who was such a vile character that she left him and returned to her family, only to be put under terrible pressure to return to the marriage for the sake of ap
Fiona Ingram
Charles Bravo (1845 - 21 April 1876) was a British lawyer who was fatally poisoned with antimony in 1876. The case is still sensational, notorious, and unresolved. It was an unsolved crime committed within an elite Victorian household at The Priory, a landmark house in Balham, London. The reportage eclipsed even government and international news at the time. Leading doctors attended the bedside, including Royal physician Sir William Gull, and all agreed it was a case of antimony poisoning. The v ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Suzy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suzy by: Susan
This is another book I obtained at a book swap. Meh. It was written by a researcher, and you can tell; he's no novelist. But Death at the Priory isn't a novel, it's an account of an old, unsolved Victorian era murder, complete with high profile names dropped, mostly in connection with the prominent, older doctor with whom the protagonist has an affair that adds momentum to her downward spiral. Eventually, her second abusive husband is poisoned, and the resulting inquisition fails to discover the ...more
This book is one of the most frustrating and ultimately disappointing books I've read in some time. I try to always find something positive to say about something I've read, but this is one of the few times that I just can't.

Part of the problem is that there just isn't enough in the historical record to build a book on. The story involves a death that occurred in England in the 1870's. It could have been murder or it could have been suicide. No one has ever been able to conclusively say which, d
Jill Hutchinson
This book is about the coldest of cold cases....the murder of Charles Bravo in 1876 in England. Nobody was ever charged although there were many suspects, including his wife, since Mr. Bravo was not very loveable. The poison antimony was used to kill him which may cause even worse suffering than arsenic and poison was a woman's method of murder in those Victorian days. The book is divided into two parts: first, the actual murder and subsequent hearings; and second, the author's research and conc ...more
Helen Kitson
In December 1875, wealthy widow Florence Ricardo (nee Campbell) married ambitious barrister Charles Bravo. Less than six months later he was dead, as a result of poisoning by antimony.

Florence's first marriage had been disastrous, her first husband being a very heavy drinker who terrorised his wife. Florence left him, despite tremendous pressure from her family to endure the marriage for the sake of appearances. Once she was free of him, she outraged society by having an affair with elderly phys
Talulah Mankiller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The first half of the book, in which Ruddick mainly fleshes out the historical backdrop, is pretty good. I started the book at 10 o'clock at night and, even though it was a work night and I was in desperate need of a full night of sleep, I couldn't put it down until Bravo finally drew his last breath around 12:30 a.m., my time! (That's pretty late for me. I'm a weenie.)

The second half was disappointing. The author boasts that - despite the attention paid by dozens of historians, academics, and
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