Crippen

( 6 )

Overview

July 1910: A gruesome discovery has been made at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden.

Chief Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard did not expect the house to be empty. Nor did he expect to find a body in the cellar. Buried under the flagstones are the remains of Cora Crippen, former music-hall singer and wife of Dr. Hawley Crippen. No one would have thought the quiet, unassuming Dr. Crippen capable of murder, yet the doctor and his mistress have ...

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Crippen: A Novel of Murder

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Overview

July 1910: A gruesome discovery has been made at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden.

Chief Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard did not expect the house to be empty. Nor did he expect to find a body in the cellar. Buried under the flagstones are the remains of Cora Crippen, former music-hall singer and wife of Dr. Hawley Crippen. No one would have thought the quiet, unassuming Dr. Crippen capable of murder, yet the doctor and his mistress have disappeared from London, and now a full-scale hunt for them has begun.

Across the Channel in Antwerp, the S.S. Montrose has just set off on its two-week voyage to North America. Slipping in among the first-class passengers is a Mr. John Robinson, accompanied by his teenage son, Edmund. The pair may be hoping for a quiet, private voyage, but in the close confines of a luxury ocean liner, anonymity is rare. And with others aboard looking for romance, or violence, or escape from their past in Europe, it will take more than just luck for the Robinsons to survive the voyage unnoticed.

An accomplished, intricately plotted novel, Crippen brilliantly reimagines the amazing escape attempt of one of history's most notorious killers and marks the outstanding American debut of one of Ireland's best young novelists.

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Editorial Reviews

Patrick Anderson
The Irish writer John Boyne's grimly fascinating new novel is based on the Hawley Harvey Crippen murder case, which delighted and scandalized Londoners in 1910. Boyne starts with the basic facts…but he has altered the story to suit his dramatic needs and authorial whims. The result of his reinvention is a dark comedy that is supremely readable, always suspenseful, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and, finally, a monumental piece of misogyny. In Boyne's sardonic telling, Cora Crippen was a monster who richly deserved to die, and her long-suffering husband was a man more sinned against than sinning.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Had Charles Dickens been around to turn his talents to fictionalizing the classic Crippen murder case, the result might well have been close to this superb, multifaceted novel from Irish author Boyne (The Thief of Time). The crime, a cause celebre in 1910, is probably best remembered for its denouement, which featured a race across the Atlantic by Scotland Yard Insp. Walter Dew in pursuit of his suspects aboard a cruise ship. Boyne brings all the characters in this drama to life, skillfully shifting perspectives and using flashbacks and flash-forwards. While his depiction of Hawley Crippen, a quack and self-proclaimed doctor with a disturbing taste for butchery, and his mistress is admittedly speculative, the author's imaginings of their inner lives and motivations are plausible. His version of the events of the night when Crippen's harridan wife met her gruesome death is convincing, despite the lack of historical support. Boyne is to be commended for his ability to alternate between Wodehousian humor and Edwardian noir. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"The truth always outs," states Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard. Or does it? Boyne (The Thief of Time) blends fact, fiction, and supposition in a suspenseful tale based on the 1910 transatlantic pursuit of Dr. Hawley Crippen for the murder and brutal dismemberment of his wife, Cora. The novel seamlessly blends several story lines, following Hawley and lover Ethel, disguised as father and son, as they board a cruise ship headed for Canada (and, they hope, freedom) while also tracing the life of Hawley and of those connected to him from his infancy to his execution for Cora's murder. Unlike historical perspectives that mention Crippen and Jack the Ripper in the same breath, Boyne's Crippen is more sympathetic, although certainly frightening at times. Despite having to capture such a long time frame, Boyne does an excellent job of condensing and elaborating exactly where and when he should. His characters are wonderfully memorable and engaging, and this book will satisfy patrons with a thirst for dramatized true-crime stories. Highly recommended for all popular fiction collections.-Susan O. Moritz, National Gallery of Art Lib., Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An Irish novelist's copious recasting of the sensational Crippen murder hunt. Boyne's coarsely textured Edwardian page-turner teems with characters but reduces them to cartoonish dimensions. Crippen himself, American and mousey but with a fascination for dissection, emerges as the frustrated product of various pushy women, starting with his mother, whose religious obsession denied him the medical education he craved. After his first wife's death in a traffic accident, he takes up with a music-hall singer named Cora, who turns out to be as overbearing as his parent. Crippen's historical reputation was informed by not only Cora's murder and dismemberment in London but his flight back to North America aboard the SS Montrose, accompanied by his lover Ethel Le Neve. From these events Boyne plaits a triple-strand narrative that loops around in time, effectively leeching suspense from the murder. Instead, the novel's central focus falls on shipboard events, as suspicions mount regarding the identity of a certain John Robinson (Crippen, who shaved off his moustache) and his "son" Edmund, in fact Ethel in a suit and wig, setting aflutter the heart and possibly the latent lesbianism of another young passenger. A snobby matron (one of many in the story), a stiff captain, a brutish youth and other caricatures spend the 14-day voyage gossiping, leering and bristling. The captain, however, seeing through Edmund's disguise, famously takes advantage of the new-fangled Marconi Telegraph equipment onboard the ship to communicate his suspicions to the police. The plodding Inspector Dew races aboard another vessel to overtake the ship, and both Crippen and Le Neve are arrested off the coast of Canada.Boyne's light tone diffuses any seriousness and his late and highly improbable twist to the murder scenario transforms the story, already damaged by its loose attention to period style, into something resembling farce. Unconvincing.
From the Publisher
Praise for John Boyne and Crippen

"Had Charles Dickens been around to turn his talents to fictionalizing the classic Crippen murder case, the result might well have been close to this superb, multifaceted novel. ... Boyne brings all the characters in this drama to life, skillfully shifting perspectives and using flashbacks and flash-forwards. … Boyne is to be commended for his ability to alternate between Wodehousian humor and Edwardian noir."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A wonderfully evocative and detailed tale... Hugely enjoyable."

Macavity's (UK)

"Boyne is a skillful storyteller... genuinely thrilling."

Sunday Tribune (UK)

"Boyne has the ability to create memorable characters, and to unfold their various stories in a tightly controlled narrative that shifts backwards and forwards, doling out enough information to keep readers on the edge of their metaphorical seats."

The Irish Times

"Crippen has confirmed him as one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers."

Irish Examiner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312343590
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/23/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,004,781
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

John Boyne was born in Dublin, Ireland. He studied English literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and was a student in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown Prize. He began publishing short stories in his early twenties and was shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award. He is also the author of the children's novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which has been shortlisted for the Ottakar's Children's Book Prize. He has taught creative writing at the Irish Writer's Centre and at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Writing Fellowship for 2005; in the same year, Ireland's Sunday Business Post named him one of the forty people under forty in Ireland "likely to be the movers and shakers who will define the country's culture, politics, style and economics in 2005 and beyond." Crippen was nominated for the Sunday Independent Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year Award. Boyne's work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives with his partner in Dublin.

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Reading Group Guide

 Historical Perspective

 

[newspaper clipping]

A wireless message was received yesterday from Captain Kendall, of the steamer Montrose, which stated that the identity of the suspected passengers on the ship had been established “beyond a doubt”. It will be remembered that two passengers who entered their names on embarking on the Montrose at Antwerp as “Mr. Robinson and son” were suspected as being Dr. Crippen and Miss LeNeve, for whom a world-wide search was being made, and as a result of a wireless message from the captain Inspector Dew, of Scotland Yard, was sent to overtake the suspects on the faster steamer Laurentic.

 

Want to hear the original telegraphic message left by Captain Kendall?

Visit

http://www.marconicalling.com

for sound clips from the Montrose, a brief history of wireless technology, and more.

 

Recommended Reading from John Boyne

 

Julian Barnes — Arthur & George

This engrossing novel gives a wonderful insight into the life of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through his real-life involvement in a case of legal injustice.

Peter Carey — Jack Maggs

Fans of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations will enjoy this reworking of the great novel from one of Australia’s finest writers.

Caleb Carr — The Italian Secretary

A “new” Sherlock Holmes tale from the author of a series of atmospheric historical thrillers, including The Alienist.

William Golding — Rites of Passage / Close QuartersFire Down Below

Life on board a nineteenth-century ship traveling from England to Australia is vividly re-created in Golding’s

masterful trilogy.

Jane Harris — The Observations

Narrated by Bessy Buckley, a young servant girl in nineteenth-century Scotland, this is a wonderfully rich novel, with one of the best narrative voices of recent years.

Kazuo Ishiguro — Never Let Me Go

A futuristic idea placed in a contemporary setting; this highly disturbing novel is also a gripping page-turner.

Ian McEwan — Atonement

This novel about the damage that can be done by misunderstandings also offers a vivid account of wartime life.

David Mitchell — Cloud Atlas

A magical tour through centuries and characters, each of whom is connected in surprising ways. Mitchell is one of the most inventive of contemporary novelists.

Colm Tóibín — The Master

Ireland’s finest writer turns his attention to the life of Henry James and presents us with a novel of such beauty that it rivals anything the master ever produced.

Sarah Waters — Fingersmith

One of the best historical novelists writing today, Sarah Waters’s epic Victorian novel is rich with larger-than-life characters and a narrative that twists and turns until the end.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    intriguing historical fictionalized account

    In 1910 Camden, England, Scotland Yard Detective Walter Dew feels somewhat ill as he looks over the crime scene in the cellar of a family house. The victim is Bella Crippen, a former music hall singer under her maiden name Elmore before she married Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen. The obvious prime suspect is the husband, but he is nowhere in sight. A witness recognized jewelry that Crippen¿s female companion, who was not his wife, wore that belonged to Bella. The sleuth assumes Crippen is on the lam though possibly also dead if by some remote chance he is not the killer. --- At the same time that Walter heads the homicide investigation, in Antwerp, Belgium, Mr. John Robinson and his teenage son Edmund board the passenger ship SS Montrose to traverse the three thousand plus miles of the Atlantic to Quebec, Canada. In fact John is actually Hawley and Edmund is his lover Ethel LeNeve. Neither realize as they try to limit contact with the crew and other passengers that Dew continues to follow their trail. --- CRIPPEN is an intriguing historical fictionalized account of a real sensationalized at the time love-murder triangle. The tale moves back and forth between the present (circa 1910) and the late nineteenth century childhood of the title character. Though the insight into the pre-homicide Hawley is fascinating, that subplot also slows down an interesting Scotland Yard investigation. Still fans will gain insight into late Victorian and Edwardian England as well as what motivated Crippen to kill his wife and run off with his lover in an apparent crime of passion. Readers will appreciate this deep Edwardian tale, but struggle between the two appealing segues that take away from each other. --- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Another great book by this author

    Highly recommend

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2009

    Crippen: A novel of Murder

    Walter Dew discovers a chilling scene in the basement of a man's home; he finds the crime scene of Bella Crippen. She was a music hall singer using her maiden name Elmore. The prime suspect in the case was her husband, Dr. Howley Crippen but is nowhere to be found along with his mistress Ethel Le Neve. With the two of them gone a manhunt for the two of them begin. The chase leads them to the SS Montrose where Crippen and LeNeve sneak on board with the alias' of Mr. Robinson and Edmund.
    Dr. Crippen is not actually a doctor but just aspires to be one. Since he was a boy, his dream job was to be a doctor but his mother didn't believe in those jobs. When it comes to women, Crippen isn't so lucky. His first wife was accidentally killed so he travels to New York and meets Cora Turner. Crippen takes her to London so she can become a famous star but she turns out to be heartless and manipulative woman. Cora Turner, another main character is Crippen's second wife. She is cranky, evil, and violent. She wants to be a music hall star but that doesn't work out so she takes her anger out on Dr. Crippen, her husband. Walter Dew is a third important character to this murder novel. He is the investigator of the Crippen murder case. He is a very driven and intelligent investigator. He tracks Hawley Crippen all throughout London and the U.S to find him.
    "Perhaps, she thought, reflecting on it, it had merely been an obsession, a romance that she could enjoy and get carried away by. And if she had felt that way about Hawley Crippen, then surely again she could feel it towards another?"
    This is the most important passage in the book because it describes the love that Ethel had for Hawley, and how Hawley loved her. Crippen had to let her go because of all of his troubles and told her that she had her whole life ahead of her and to go love another man. It finally showed a breakthrough for Hawley towards women and his own life.
    I agree with everything about this book, it is extremely well written and has no flaws. The author maintains that thrilling suspense while jumping scenes from land to sea. The myriad stories in the novel were also expertly intertwined which added to the superiority of the book. The books pace and themes are a direct relation to the author's style because it keeps the intensity up while giving crucial character or plot details, and he knows how to slow the pace of the book down when necessary. The book is superbly written and I recommend it to people who like thriller books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    intriguing historical fictionalized account of a real sensationalized murder triangle

    In 1910 Camden, England, Scotland Yard Detective Walter Dew feels somewhat ill as he looks over the crime scene in the cellar of a family house. The victim is Bella Crippen, a former music hall singer under her maiden name Elmore before she married Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen. The obvious prime suspect is the husband, but he is nowhere in sight. A witness recognized jewelry that Crippen¿s female companion, who was not his wife, wore that belonged to Bella. The sleuth assumes Crippen is on the lam though possibly also dead if by some remote chance he is not the killer. At the same time that Walter heads the homicide investigation, in Antwerp, Belgium, Mr. John Robinson and his teenage son Edmund board the passenger ship SS Montrose to traverse the three thousand plus miles of the Atlantic to Quebec, Canada. In fact John is actually Hawley and Edmund is his lover Ethel LeNeve. Neither realize as they try to limit contact with the crew and other passengers that Dew continues to follow their trail. --- CRIPPEN is an intriguing historical fictionalized account of a real sensationalized at the time love-murder triangle. The tale moves back and forth between the present (circa 1910) and the late nineteenth century childhood of the title character. Though the insight into the pre-homicide Hawley is fascinating, that subplot also slows down an interesting Scotland Yard investigation. Still fans will gain insight into late Victorian and Edwardian England as well as what motivated Crippen to kill his wife and run off with his lover in an apparent crime of passion. Readers will appreciate this deep Edwardian tale, but struggle between the two appealing segues that take away from each other. --- Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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