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The Lady in the Cellar: Murder, Scandal and Insanity in Victorian Bloomsbury

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  306 ratings  ·  124 reviews
Number 4 Euston Square was a respectable boarding house, well-kept and hospitable, like many others in Victorian London. But beneath this very ordinary veneer, there was a murderous darkness at the heart of this particular house.
On 8th May 1879, the corpse of former resident, Matilda Hacker, was uncovered by chance in the coal cellar. The investigation that followed thi
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by White Lion Publishing
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
*Many thanks to the Author, Quatro Publishing Group and Netgally for granting my wish in exchange for my honest review.*
Sinclair McKay wrote a book which is definitely worth reading if you are interested in true crime and the Victorian times. I wanted to read The Lady in the Cellar as some years ago I read a short article about the mysterious case of a woman who was killed, and discovered after some time at 4, Euston Square. Killed? Murdered? McKay undertook Herculean effort to try to investigat
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Boarding House..."introduced a measure of enforced proximity with the nature of such houses unexpected intimacy could be sparked; occasionally with the darkest consequences...". Many boarding houses were furnished with heavy curtains and carpets giving the illusion of safety, protection from the cold, and from chaotic street noise. Severin Bastendorff and wife Mary leased a boarding house at 4,Euston Square, Bloomsbury. The household seemed elegant and respectable. Severin and ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
Netgalley #26

Many thanks go to Sinclair McKay, Quarto Publishing, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
Robin Bonne
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, netgalley
This is a dramatic, true crime account of a murdered woman found in the basement of a Victorian boarding house. Was it the maid? Was it another boarder? Was it the landlord or his brother? I was kept guessing.

The random twists and turns, plus the aftermath of this case was bizarre, and kept me reading to find out what happened next.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
I swear that this year for me personally, has been the year I've binged read Victorian true crime books. That hasn't happened to me before haha. Anyway, The Lady In The Cellar is a real-life crime in the year 1879, when the corpse of a woman is discovered in the cellar of a posh London home in Euston Square. Through tracking down a relative of the victim, she is revealed to be Matilda Hacker, a former resident of the house in which her corpse was found in. What happens next doesn't just shock Lo ...more
Valerity (Val)
Jul 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On May 9th, 1879, at No. 4, Euston Square boarding house a body was found in the coal cellar by the errand boy. The house was run by the Bastendorffs. The obvious crime was investigated by Inspector Hagen of the CID. The body was so grotesquely decomposed that it made identification very difficult. It was eventually identified as Matilda Hacker, who was a previous tenant. The book follows the investigation and is a rather good true crime read. It contains some good information on this Victorian- ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the world before DNA and modern forensics, police relied on confessions to solve most crimes. If there was no confession then logic had to be used as Mr Holmes said "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". In this well written true crime story neither confession or logic was able to provide an answer as to the mysterious death in Number 4 Euston Square.
The author provides both a well laid out series of the events and characters involv
Caitlyn Lynch
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: victorian, true-crime
This might be one of the most incredible true-crime books I’ve ever read - and I’ve read plenty. If you wrote this case as fiction, it would be derided as too ridiculous to be believed. However, it all really happened in the late 1870s, and reading it is an absolutely fascinating insight into both the lives of everyday Londoners and the methods of police investigations at the time.

(I also found out about the Illustrated Police News, which was basically the first printed sensationalist tabloid an
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, kindle, non-fic
Thank you to NetGalley for a Kindle ARC of The Lady in the Cellar.

I'm not a big fan of nonfiction; okay, I barely read nonfiction unless its hyped but when I read the description of The Lady in the Cellar, I was intrigued.

In 19th century London, in the cellar of a boarding house in a respectable neighborhood, the dead body of a woman in her late fifties to early sixties is discovered.

The author traces the origins of the murder victim, her social background and the people in her social or
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
McKay looks at the case of a body found in the cellar of a London lodging house in the late 19th century. The discovery and the subsequent investigation and trial drew attention to the lives of the householders and had longlasting effects on those involved. This was a fascinating story which was sadly never properly solved. There was a fair bit of conjecture from the author towards the end of the book but overall this was well-written and the narrative flowed at an energetic pace.
kayleigh ❁
Sep 28, 2018 rated it did not like it


Regardless of what I think of this read, the descriptive prowess within it is amazing. I can only wish that I held the same capacity for adjectives and metaphors that Sinclair McKay has.

My main issue with this book is that the narrative is gruelling. There's not much dialogue, or introspection to break up the narrative, there just seems to be overwrought long explanations of everything . I literally kept zoning o
Bonnye Reed
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
GNab I found myself disappointed with the outcome of this true crime story which makes no sense, as it's based on a true crime and the repercussions of said crime on the community. It just seemed so unjust, and there was no recourse for most of those suffering the most from this travesty of justice. I felt the most angst for Mary Bastendorff, with all those youngsters....

I would like to think that in our time things would have been handled if not better, then our modern techniques would uncover
Number 4 Euston Square was a respectable boarding house, well-kept and hospitable, like many others in Victorian London. But beneath this very ordinary veneer, there was a murderous darkness at its heart.

On 8th May 1879, the corpse of former resident, Matilda Hacker, was uncovered by chance in the coal cellar. The investigation that followed this macabre discovery stripped bare the shadow-side of Victorian domesticity, throwing the lives of everyone within into an extraordinary and destructive
Ritika Chhabra
Follow Just A Girl High On Books for more reviews.

Thank you Netgalley for a digital copy of this book.

I started reading this book because it's blurb really intrigued me. I've always been a fan of mysteries and this book is based on a real-life mystery of its own so of course, I just had to check it out. And I wasn't the least bit disappointed upon reading it. I mean, it's a great book and I rather enjoyed going through it. Yes, the formatting bothered me a bit but I'm certain that the final copy
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one defied expectations for me. I'm not particularly interested in Victorian-era stories, I usually find trial narratives one of the more tedious elements of true crime, and I'm iffy on true crime that's pre-1940s-ish. I'm so glad I took the chance despite it having all those elements (honestly, I might've only given it a shot for the really attractive cover).

This story of a murder discovered nearly two years after it happened in a London boarding house run by the family of a Luxembourg imm
Aug 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, england
It was ok. What I didn't like, looking at it from an American 2019 perspective, was that it seemed obvious that the main suspect was lying through her teeth but no one wanted to acknowledge it. Very frustrating. ...more
aimee :)
Mar 02, 2021 rated it did not like it
So i was expecting quite a fast paced thriller with lots of twists and turns but it turned out to be super slow. You found out the identity within the first few chapters and after that it was pretty boring and kept repeating things. Didn’t really enjoy it but oh well :)
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it

Booktrail the locations in the novel

I’d never heard of this murder in Euston Square in London so this was a fascinating read. Imagine a body found in a cellar which has been there for two years at least? How, even in London with its slums and growing chaotic population does someone go missing without being reported? When it’s a respectable woman in a respectable boarding house, the mystery grows

The boarding house was a fascinating mix of immigrants of German and Luxembourg descent. There’s a qui
Gayle Noble
When a body is found in the cellar of 4 Euston Square, in Victorian London it sets off a chain reaction of far reaching consequences. Matilda Hacker was an eccentric older lady who rented a room at no. 4 - the home of the Bastendorff family. She was only there a matter of weeks before suddenly taking her leave and disappearing. Did the Bastendorffs have something to do with her disappearance or was their maid, the last person to see Ms Hacker alive, involved?

Victorian Britain is one of my favour
Karen Barber
A period in time that fascinates me, and the opening immediately set up the premise of a world where respectable surface behaviour might not always be quite what it appears. This was not a case I knew anything about, and the details revealed in this were shocking but also deeply upsetting in terms of how things developed.
The case was, I assume, a much talked about one at the time. The discovery of a body in the cellar of a respectable lodging house. Who had been killed? Who was responsible? How
Diane Hernandez
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A long-dead body is found in the captivating, and true, Lady in the Cellar.

In London in 1879, many people were looking to make their fortune by living together in boarding houses. In one, at Number 4 Euston Square, a well-to-do older woman’s body is found in the coal cellar. Her putrefied skeletal remains are clothed partially in silk along with a clothesline tied roughly around her neck. Though her time of death is years before, the London constabulary discovers through extremely thorough detec
Aug 08, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a nonfiction book detailing the infamous murder at no. 4 Euston square in 1879. The author has provided details of not just the police investigation procedures, but also the court trial, what the prosecution and the defence contended, the evidence and witnesses examined, background of each person involved in the case, from the victim and her family, to the police officers involved. The book also contains other information about the time period such as societal changes with respect to bo ...more
Dan Allen
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this "true crime" account of a Victorian scandal. The story in itself is amazing and McKay tells it very well. The book reads like a superior thriller. If you enjoyed "The Suspicions of Mr Whicher", this is much better.

I had only a couple of minor quibbles. Euston Square where the body was found and the main characters live wasn't, isn't and never will be in Bloomsbury (an area of London famous for its literary associations if you're outside the UK). Presumably the publisher
Karen M
Jan 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Tempted by the cover promising ‘ murder , scandal and insanity in Victorian Bloomsbury’ and remembering Mr Whicher and Rubenhold’s Five I was looking forward to finding out more about the seamier side of Victorian London.
There is a lot of social history , a lot of detail about rents , and diversions to Germany, a lot of sweeping generalisations , and a vast amount of trying to get into a person’s mind and guess the how and why of feelings and motivations.
It’s also hyperbolic in the extreme with
Patrica Liebe
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wished for this book and my wish was granted and I decided to leave an honest review.
I love a Victorian Murder Mystery and a true account virus a fictional account is even better. This story seemed to good to be true as there was many people who were suspect and I was kept guessing up to nearly the end when all was revealed. This visual descriptions were wonderful and it was almost like I was watching as the events were occurring. The author has written a wonderful and very entertaining story
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whilst well-researched and well written this novel felt it was written by someone who has done too much research and wants to use it all……

I like my true crime books, to be just that - the crime and a bit of historical background for context but not so much that you’re skipping through paragraphs about extraneous information.

I did like that the author took a position on the crime.
Joanne Tinkler (Mamajomakes)
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I’d like to thank Netgalley and White Lion Publishing for allowing me to read The Lady in the Cellar.

I really enjoyed this book. The subject matter was very appealing as it combined my two favourite things - history and crime.

The writer has done fabulous research and the characters and settings are brought to life through his writing. At times the book has a dark, macabre and menacing feel to it but I think that only makes the story more authentic.

Overall, a good book the kept me entertained
Contrary Reader
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a compelling retrospective of an intriguing Victorian Murder mystery. Artfully constructed and explored- keeping your attention rapt as you explore the twists and turns.

Who put that body in the coal cellar?
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Sinclair McKay writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph and The Secret Listeners and has written books about James Bond and Hammer horror for Aurum. His next book, about the wartime “Y” Service during World War II, is due to be published by Aurum in 2012. He lives in London.

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