Geez, I can't believe it took me three weeks to read this book! Part of the reason was because the book rather dragged in the beginning as it was settGeez, I can't believe it took me three weeks to read this book! Part of the reason was because the book rather dragged in the beginning as it was setting up the story before the trial. I was completely absorbed in reading about the last part of the story about the trial and its outcome. I especially enjoyed the debates for and against Florence because of her gender, outward sexuality, the feminist movement she unwittingly became part of and the changing attitudes of women in regards to marriage and family during the late Victorian era.
The book is the story of Florence Maybrick and her marriage to the significantly older Liverpudlian cotton merchant James Maybrick, and his subsequent murder trial. Death by arsenic poisoning is what she was convicted of, although they never actually proved that and really what she was being punished for was her adulterous affair with another man. The all-male jury and biased (possibly mentally deficient) judge, in addition to the inability to testify on her behalf (something that apparently wasn't allowed in court until after her trial), in my opinion, contributed to her guilty verdict. Was she guilty of murder? I don't think so, as the author clearly outlined James Maybrick's addiction to poisons such as arsenic and strychnine, which were prescribed for everything in those days as they were thought beneficial to one's health. Read the book and decide for yourself whether she was guilty or not. 4 stars. ...more
I have been feeling like some narrative nonfiction and so when I saw this, I snapped it up. I always enjoy a good true crime story as they examine howI have been feeling like some narrative nonfiction and so when I saw this, I snapped it up. I always enjoy a good true crime story as they examine how someone came to be the way they are and why they did it. I've never heard of this case, but found it fascinating. The title refers to Robert "Bob" Irwin, a brilliant but mentally disturbed sculptor, who in 1937 brutally murdered his former landlady Mary Gedeon, her model daughter Veronica, and an English boarder named Frank Byrnes.
The author set up the story by explaining that Beekman Place, the location of the triple murder, was the site of two previous murders in the past year and we are introduced to the man who would become Irwin's lawyer, the undefeated Samuel Leibowitz. We get a very thorough look at Irwin's parents and how their religious fanaticism impacted his childhood, in particular Pentacostalism. His two brothers both ended up in prison. He showed artistic tendencies early on and went to work for some famous American sculptors, though he never stayed long at any job due to his violent temper and crazy ideas. The most prominent idea was "visualization" in which he tried to remember minute details of particular piece of art, though this eventually led to him believing he could harness energy and become a god. In any case, it was a major reason why people avoided him and part of the reason, along with Congenital Syphilis, why he was institutionalized several times before committing the murders. Once he moved to Manhattan, he became obsessed with Edith Gedeon, the daughter of his landlords. This obsession lasted for the rest of his life, and was the reason he killed Edith's mother, sister and Frank Byrnes.
The majority of the book is about Irwin's capture by the police, which took several months, and his subsequent trial and sentencing. The book goes into great detail about the sensationalism of the press, particularly newspapers, in exploiting everyone involved (including the murder victims). I thought the section on how to determine if a defendant could plead insanity or not was particularly fascinating, as well as the fact that both Irwin's attorney and the prosecutor both agreed that Irwin should be imprisoned for life. 4 stars. ...more
I started getting interested in true crime back in high school after my first trip to London. I’ve always loved history, and there was this cool museuI started getting interested in true crime back in high school after my first trip to London. I’ve always loved history, and there was this cool museum there called the London Underground (not the subway system) that was about the less-savory parts of London, i.e. the guillotining, murderers and torture instruments. I think it has since closed down or renamed itself. Anyways, it was probably a bit macabre for a 15 year old, but I found it intriguing. They had an exhibit on Jack the Ripper and I’ve been hooked on true crime ever since then. I think it’s because I’m fascinated with the psychological aspects of the killers themselves, like what drove them to do it. This book is a by-product of the fascination with murder and the sentences that went with them that was glorified by the Victorians. They definitely helped to make minor celebrities out of murderers through newspapers, plays, penny dreadfuls, and even puppet shows for children. Because the only form of entertainment in those days came from the written word, the public relied on authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens to create works based on the famous murders of the day. I found the connection between Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and Jack the Ripper, and how Jack the Ripper influenced the creation of "Dracula" by Bram Stoker, to be especially interesting. There were definitely a lot of murderers I had never heard of, in fact the only one besides Jack the Ripper that I had heard of was Burke & Hare. The need to control the rash of murders that seemed almost constant from the beginning of the 19th century helped to create organizations like the Metropolitan Police and the CID (which later became MI-6, Britain’s version of the FBI/CIA), and book characters like Sherlock Holmes. My only gripe with the book is that it was a little long-winded. Aside from that, it was a excellent read (though you definitely need a chipper book to follow it, to get away from all the death and destruction). 4 ½ stars. ...more
I would like to preface this review by saying that if you do not like very graphic and detailed descriptions, with some pictures, of crimes, then thisI would like to preface this review by saying that if you do not like very graphic and detailed descriptions, with some pictures, of crimes, then this is not the book for you. I first became interested in Jack the Ripper in high school after I read a book about the subject. I was fascinated and horrified by what happen, and I guess part of the appeal is wondering why in the heck someone would do something like this. I've seen the Patricia Cornwell special that she did in the late 90s, and while it was interesting, I don't believe the mystery could be tied up in that complete a package like she made it out to be.
In this book the author, a former Detective in London, breaks down the murders into manageable chunks that makes everything easier to understand. The five "canonical" murders as he calls them, are discussed in detail which includes the actual court proceedings, along with four additional murders which may or may not be attributed to the Ripper. The second part describes the possible motives for the killer, the evidence, the Ripper letters (which the author basically says were all manufactured by journalists of the day), a list of eleven suspects that the author doesn't believe did the murders and a final suspect that he believes committed not only the 5 canonical murders, but also at least 6 others all over the world. I thought it was a very well done book. 4 stars. ...more
Another well-researched true crime graphic novel about a little known case called The Mystery of Mary Rogers, a New York girl who was presumably foundAnother well-researched true crime graphic novel about a little known case called The Mystery of Mary Rogers, a New York girl who was presumably found murdered near Hoboken, NJ in July 1841. He is very thorough in the conspiracy theories about her death, I think a little too thorough as the book kind of drags in the middle (but interesting nonetheless). Due to the content though, I would recommend this book for ages 15+. ...more