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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  68 Ratings  ·  49 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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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
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
Robin Bonne
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction
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.
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: true-crime, victorian
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
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
❆ kayleigh ( awkword reviews ) ❆


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 out and struggled to get as far as I did (36%) before I put
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
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
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
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
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
Helen Carolan
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
In a genteel boarding house in Euston square in the late 1800's a woman's body is found. Who she is and how she came to be there is a mystery.To this day the crime remains unsolved, but it had a dreadful impact on all those involved. While a maid who had worked in the house was charged with murder she was later aquitted. McKay shows how even the most genteel areas of London had their more disturbing side and he also shows the fears that often beset people living among strangers. An interesting r ...more
Merryl Todd
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
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
Carol Evans
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
In general, true crimes don’t interest me. Give me a fictional and a quirky fictional detective who will definitely solve the case and I’m usually happy. However, this year I’ve been trying to broaden my reading habits to include more non-fiction and classics. The Lady in the Cellar is a fascinating book examining the murder of Matilda Hacker in the 1870s and the events surrounding the body’s discovery and the trials that resulted.

In a lot of ways, The Lady in the Cellar is similar to the fictio
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Victorian London is almost synonymous with murder thanks to the infamous Ripper murders.  However, our image of such a place is often in the din and squalor of the slum boroughs, the middle and upper class districts are the preserve of Mary Poppins and A Christmas Carol in our public consciousness.  Grizzly murders never happen here, don't they?

In The Lady in the Cellar, Sinclair McKay takes readers on a guided tour of the world surrounding 4, Euston Square where the body of an elderly woman was
Cleo Bannister
The Lady in the Cellar refers to a Miss Matilda Hacker who was found amongst the coal in a cellar in a boarding house in Euston Square in London. She’d been dead for quite some time by the time her body was found in 1879 and at first the police were at a loss even as to her identity. You see her final resting place in a boarding house in a fast expanding London lends itself to a more anonymous lifestyle, one where the occupants lived alongside strangers in rooms of varying sizes and facilities.

Becky B
In the late 1800s, the remains of an elderly woman were found buried in the coal cellar of a respectable house in London of a furniture maker and his family who took in tenants. The book explores the murder and its fallout for all concerned, the evidence gathered by the police, and the court cases that followed.

I’m torn on how to rate this book. I found the first part, that followed the discovery, the uncovering of the woman’s identity, and the evidence gathered to be fascinating. The first cour
Malvika Jaswal
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review

Eye-catching book covers have always been like siren calls to this reader. When I came across the cover of this book on NetGalley, I didn’t think twice before I clicked on the request button. The title told me what the book was about and the cover made it plain that it would be a 'whodunit', set in one of my favorite reading genres.

Unfortunately for me, what I failed take into account was the fact that the book was act
Theresa Larson
The Lady in the Cellar
By: Sinclair McGay
Quarto Publishing Group - White Lion Publishing
4 Stars

By 1879 in London there were 14,000 homes that were licensed to rent rooms to lodgers. The house at 4 Easton Square was one of those homes. From the outside it looked like a reputable boarding house. Inside, however, it was teeming with secrets. One of those secrets was revealed on May 8th, 1879 when the family’s errand boy went down to the cellar to make room for a coal drop. There he discovered a foot
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not my usual read but pretty darn good! The Lady in the Cellar is the latest book from Sinclair Mckay and wow! You'll be transported back to london in the 1800's when, you might be surprised to know, lodging became quite popular. It was a useful practice for those living in London, and helped the people from other regions to start their lives in town, or to go about their businesses. It was sometimes seen as shady, (single women and men moving about each other in such houses). This story is set ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating and enlightening read for anyone interested in both true crime and history. Sinclair McKay introduces the reader to a murky, unsolved murder and uses the many facets of the mystery to flesh out the time and place in which it occurred.

Matilda Hacker was an interesting lady; even before her grisly end and the ensuing scandal that followed. Thanks to an independent income Matilda and her sister eschewed marriage and children. They lived comfortably together with a shared taste
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I am glad I was given a chance to read this book since it is the first of its kind that I have happened to attempt reading. I have always read along the murder mystery lines. This however, was the first(that I can recall reading) that I read about an actual event. It is a piecing together of events that took place in a house in Victorian England, with multiple unknown factors. There is a body found in the cellar, and with the limited knowledge and resources of the time an investigation occurred. ...more
Audrey Adamson
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
The Lady in the Celler covers the intriguing murder of a boarding house in England.
Setting up for the day, as usual, one of the servant boys begins shoveling coal. But this day was not like any other: he found a foot! This leads him to find a body that had been in the cellar for some time. The state of the body makes it hard to identify who it is and how she was murdered. The investigation brings out maids who steal, eccentric ladies who skip out on rent and philandering husbands without a clea
Stephanie Borders
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an example of true crime when done right.

The body of an older woman is found in the coal cellar of a boardinghouse in Victorian London. Once her identity is discovered, suspicion almost immediately falls on the maid in the house, Hannah Dobbs. But is she the true killer? And what other immoral behavior was going on in this house with the other occupants around the time of the death?

McKay is stellar at drawing out every detail and making the reader guess what has occurred. Nothing is off
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The story is set in 1879 at the address of no 4 ,Euston Square , Bloomsbury , London . The home is owned by Severin and Mary Bastendorff , a German family who renting part of their home out . They have one maid , a Hannah Dobbs . What starts of as a story about the residents of a house soon takes a darker turn when a body is found in the coal cellar.
I found this story completely intriguing , the time the story is set in and the secrets and lies of the residents makes it very hard to guess what’
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it

This is the true account of how in 1879 the decomposing body of a woman was found in the coal celler of number 4 Euston Square which at the time was a boarding House.

What follows is the police investigation into trying to find out who the woman was , who murdered her, why was she murdered and how come nobody in the house noticed that there had been a decomposing body in the celler for nearly two years.

The author gives the reader an in depth look at the case and gives some interesting insights a
This is a revisiting of a complex murder case discovered in 1879. The victim was found eighteen months after her death in the coal cellar of a rooming house in a respectable area of London,England. With due diligence the identity of the murdered woman was discovered, a process made unusually difficult because she preferred to dress and behave as an ingenue regardless of present age, took up residence under an interesting variety of names and had the finances to support this lifestyle. The family ...more
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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.