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The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams: A 1950's Murder Mystery

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  113 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Paperback, 357 pages
Published 2013 by John Murray (publisher)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  113 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure whether you should say that you 'enjoyed' a book about a real life murder trial, but I thought this was absolutely gripping from start to finish. It is the story of family doctor, John Bodkin Adams, who was accused in 1957 of murdering a patient in the hopes of inheriting her Rolls-Royce. If the charge seems bizarre, then so was much about Dr Adams - who had "curious habits" indeed, and who was the focus of much gossip and innuendo long before the case he was accused of went to tri ...more
Cleopatra  Pullen
Oh how I love a well-researched piece of historical crime and was very impressed by this author’s account of George Smith the ‘Brides in the Bath’ murderer and Dr Spilsbury who was an expert witness at this man’s trial in her book The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides in the Bath. It was only natural then to seek out this, her next book about a Doctor who was a suspected serial killer.

John Bodkin Adams was born in Ireland, a God-fearing man born of devout parents and moved to East
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's lovely when you spot a book and everything falls into place. The title caught my eye, the cover made it look promising, and when I placed that name Jane Robins I knew that I was in safe hands. I had been very taken with her book about the case of the brides in the bath. I'd known of that case - though I'd not known much about it - before I picked the book up, but I had no idea at all who Doctor Adams was.

I was to find out ....

John Bodkin Adams was born and raised in Ireland, the son of a st
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: factual, 2013, new-to-me
How do you find this man - guilty or onnocnet?

In 1957, Dr John Adams, a general practitioner from Eastbourne, was tried for the murder of an elderly patient, ostensibly because he hoped to inherit her Rolls Royce. The investigation leading up to the trial was a press sensation, with rumours abounding that Adams had murdered as many as 300 patients. This book tells the story of the investigation and trial, and Jane Robins asks the reader to judge whether the eventual verdict was right or wrong –
Añother 3.5 really. This case caused much comment and excitement in the late 50s, with an old-fashioned GP in Eastbourne accused of murdering an elderly patient, one of many whom he seems to have helped out of this world with astonishingly high levels of powerful drugs such as heroin and morphine. Other peculiarities included very controlling behaviour, helping himself to trophies such as gold pens from among his patients' possessions, and suggesting things he might like to be left in their will ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well researched and intelligently written account of the circumstances surrounding the trial of Dr John Bodkin Adams in the 1950's. He was suspected of killing off many of his rich, elderly patients in Eastbourne. Was he a doctor genuinely trying to ease the passage of his patients, an incompetent practitioner or a mass-murderer? Jane Robins gives you all the details and allows you to make your own mind up. A very interesting book.
Mar 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book started out well, detailing the psychopathic behavior of Doctor Adams who had a habit of taking valuable tokens from his patients sometimes before they had actually died. His prescriptions of dangerous quantities of barbiturates and the suspicious deaths of so many elderly widows who mentioned him in their wills. However the second part which deals with his trial spends a lot of time lauding the oratory and cleverness of the defense barrister Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller and the Judg ...more
Adam Thomas
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction-crime
A gripping account of a real life Agatha Christie-style murder, with a suspicious kindly doctor, country houses, wills, drugs and Scotland Yard. Jane Robins writes in a wonderfully evocative way, especially in the courtroom scenes - not an easy part to write. She leads you back and forth between agreeing with the prosecution and agreeing with the defence, before Dr Adams is given the verdict of.... well you'll have to read the book for that. The final chapter offers her personal analysis, based ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely informative and interesting read. The facts were clearly laid out along with the conclusions of Jane Robins. It was quite gripping especially as she didn't give the game away as to whether Dr Adams had been found guilty or not. The Bibliography could have been a little more detailed but she had obviously researched the story in great depth.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m sure we have all heard of Dr Harold Shipman, I along with everyone else sat stunned in front of the television news as the events unfolded – and the revelations dating back years started to roll in. So it seemed incredible that I had never heard of a potentially earlier version of Harold Shipman, surely such a person would be just as infamous? The reason why I – and maybe you – hadn’t previously heard of Dr John Adams – is detailed in this fascinating work by Jane Robins, whose book The Magn ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cheryl Bookclub 2015
3.5 stars
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew nothing about the famous case of Dr John Bodkin Adams until I read this truly fascinating book and because I knew nothing about the case – beyond the name of the main character – it came as a total shock to me to discover he was actually found not guilty of murder. Reading the book I had the clear feeling that he would be guilty.

The author writes in an easy accessible style and really brings the events and the characters to life. Other possible victims are studied in detail as well as th
Gonzaga Escauriaza
Very entertaining and surprising.

The doctor is very peculiar and nuts.

He could not react the way he does if he was not insane.

Anyway i read it very nicely.
Listened to in audio format.

I had never heard of Dr Adams especially when his case was as striking as Dr Harold Shipman. Unlike Shipman who was found guilty, Adams got away with murder.

In 1957 Dr John Bodkin Adams appeared at the Old Bailey charged with the murder of Bobbie Hullett.

Dr Adams was a GP working in Eastbourne. His MO was to befriend wealthy widows that he was treating. Many of the widows named him in their wills or named him as power of attorney. He was fond of cars and would ask the
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good. I didn't know much about John Bodkin Adams other than he was supposedly one of the worst serial killers in history who got away with murder.

The book is a bit more reticent than that, but ultimately it's hard to understand Adams behaviour in any other way other than him being a killer by any legal or moral definition of the word. Part of why he got away with it maybe is that everyone (the police, the press, the prosecutor) probably misunderstood WHY he did it.

There is always a degree
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed a previous book by Jane Robins on the Brides in the Bath murders, and hoped this would be as good. It was even better - gripping from start to finish, brilliantly researched and very well written.
The Afterword by the author was excellent too (for what it's worth I completely agree with her views on the good Doctor and her opinion as to whether he was innocent or guilty).
Do hope Robins is starting work on another true crime. Why would you read crime fiction when real life is always so m
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Interesting though not well known case, a pre-runner to Harold Shipman. Dr Adams has a large circle of rich, elderly widows who have a habit of laving him money and cars. He also seems to hand out drugs like gummi bears, but can he be guilty of murder.
Was amazed at the reaction of the medical profession, the trial is a surprise. A book which presents the story and ultimately left me puzzled, I know what I think.
Mark A Simmons
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
An compelling true crime mystery, told with an urgency you don't usually find in a non-fiction work. I found myself pulled into the events surrounding Dr John Bodkin Adams, who I only knew as a footnote in the discussion around a similar modern criminal case, with equal horror and fascination. To say more would be a major spoiler : I fully recommend that you don't look up anything about the good Doctor prior to reading Robins's masterwork.
Laura Hannaway
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was fascinating! The author has a lovely writing style that meant I flew through the pages (which I find is often not the case with nonfiction books unfortunately). It certainly helped that the subject matter was was such a terrifying concept. Sleepy Eastbourne at the mercy of Dr Adams for all those years! What was truly startling was the comparisons it draws with the Shipman murders fifty years later! Highly recommended!!
Stephen Goldenberg
A fascinating case, pre-Harold Shipman, which I had never heard of. It's a very thorough account of the history and the subsequent trial. For me, what was almost more interesting than the murder case issues was the fascinating insight it gave into middle class life in the early 1950s in south coast England.
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Not sure I really enjoyed this book but it was a fascinating read. At times it seemed that I wasn't reading a book based on a true story. Some of the cases and facts written were so bizarre it seemed like I was reading fiction. The books is focused on as many facts that are available and very few opinions are put forth until the end.
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a treat: an old-fashioned real-life murder mystery told in a highly readable but non-sensational manner. The author's prose is darkly entertaining yet she never loses track of her aim to present a seriously researched account of the case. Couldn't fault it!
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cheryl Bookclub October 2015
Sarah Harkness
This was probably much more technical than I wanted or needed, i got really bogged down in the section on the trial...but not a bad read
Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Far, far too long.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mandy Setterfield
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another real-life murder story. Gripping, particularly because of the ambiguity of the evidence. Shipman-esque psychopath. I can't get enough of this type of book!
rated it liked it
Sep 17, 2014
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Jane Robins began her career as a journalist with The Economist, The Independent, and the BBC. She has made a specialty of writing historical true crime and has a particular interest in the history of forensics. She has published three books of nonfiction in the UK, Rebel Queen (Simon & Schuster, 2006), The Magnificent Spilsbury (John Murray, 2010), and The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams (John Mur ...more

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