Saturday, October 8, 2011


Pages: 506
Date: 08/10/2011
Grade: 4.5
Details: Received from and reviewed for Transworld Books

This is the fictionalised story of Dr. Hawley Crippen who, in 1910 killed his wife, dissected her body and hid the parts under the floor in his cellar.
The book starts in July 1910 with passengers boarding the SS Montrose before she sets of for her passage from Antwerp to Canada. Two of the people boarding are Mr. John Robinson and his seventeen year old son Edmund who soon arouse suspicions in the cantankerous captain of the Montrose.
Also on board are Antonia Drake, an overbearing snob and her flirtatious and spoiled daughter Victoria as well as Matthieu Zola who some readers may recognise from The Thief of Time, another wonderful book by John Boyne.
The story then alternates between the back-story of Hawley Crippen’s life and his voyage towards Canada.  Crippen’s history covers an unhappy childhood in America, a short marriage, his deep wish to become a doctor, his second marriage to Cora Crippen and their life in London.
In London Hawley Crippen meets Ethel Le Neve who he grows very close to while his marriage to Cora moves from bad to worse. When Cora disappears friends of hers alert Scotland Yard who reluctantly investigate. By the time Inspector Dew starts to take Cora Crippen’s disappearance seriously and makes his horrific discovery in the cellar, Hawley Crippen and Ethel have disappeared. It is only thanks to the observant captain of the Montrose and the recently installed telegraph machine that Dew manages to catch up with Crippen and bring him back to England and his ultimate fate.

This was a fascinating book. Most people will have at least heard about Dr. Crippen and his actions, although I also think that many, like me, will only know the faint outlines of the sorry saga.
While I knew, from the start, how this book was going to end, the story still gripped me and I found myself compulsively turning the pages to find out what would happen next.
The fact that most of this story is fiction only makes the book more interesting. I like the theory about the murder, thrown up by the author, especially since I had not seen it coming at all. I also enjoyed being reunited with Matthieu Zola, a character I really enjoyed reading about in The Thief of Time.
I’m tempted to find myself a non-fiction book about Dr. Crippen now. I’m curious how much of the story told in this book is fact and which parts, apart from the obvious ones, have sprung from John Boyne’s impressive imagination.

This was the fourth and final book I read and reviewed for Transworld Books and I would like to thank the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read four wonderful books, some of which I might not have picked up if it hadn’t been for this challenge.

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