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This is the fascinating life of femme fatale Alice de Janzé, a book that “may well have solved the mystery of Lord Erroll’s killing” (San Francisco Chronicle)—the story at the center of James Fox’s White Mischief.
A glamorous American multimillionairess, Alice de Janzé scandalized 1920s Paris when she left her aristocratic French husband for an English lover—whom she later tried to kill in a failed murder-suicide. Abandoning Paris for the moneyed British colonial society known ...
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This is the fascinating life of femme fatale Alice de Janzé, a book that “may well have solved the mystery of Lord Erroll’s killing” (San Francisco Chronicle)—the story at the center of James Fox’s White Mischief.
A glamorous American multimillionairess, Alice de Janzé scandalized 1920s Paris when she left her aristocratic French husband for an English lover—whom she later tried to kill in a failed murder-suicide. Abandoning Paris for the moneyed British colonial society known as Kenya’s Happy Valley, she became the lover of womanizer Joss Hay, Lord Erroll. In 1941, Erroll was shot in his car on an isolated road. The crime remained unsolved.
Paul Spicer, whose mother was a confidante of Alice’s, uses personal letters and research to piece together what really happened that fateful evening. He brings to life an era of unimaginable wealth and indulgence, where jealousy and hidden passions brewed. At the heart of The Temptress is Alice, whose seductive charms no man could resist, and whose unfulfilled quest for love ended in her own suicide at age forty-two.
“A true story of glamour, scandal, and murder in colonial Africa.” —The Daily Beast
“In Paul Spicer the notorious American expatriate and radiant beauty Alice de Janzé has finally met her match.” —Michael Holroyd, author of A Strange Eventful History
“Fans of Frances Osborne’s The Bolter will enjoy Paul Spicer’s The Temptress.” —The Wall Street Journal
THE TEMPTRESS (Chapter One)The Heiress
ALICE DE JANZÉ WAS BORN ALICE SILVERTHORNE, at home in Buffalo, New York, on September 28, 1899. Home was an apppropriately extravagant and elaborate setting for the arrival of this little heiress who would one day grow up to become a countess. The year before her birth, Alice’s father, the Buffalo millionaire William Silverthorne, had bought a brand-new three-story redbrick Georgian Revival mansion on Delaware Avenue, also known as Millionaire’s Row. It was here that Alice was born and spent her early years. The house—designed by the preeminent Buffalo architects Esenwein and Johnson—was ostentatious, even by the standards of Millionaire’s Row. There were large Doric pillars around the main doorways, a maze of vast and elegant rooms inside, and stables and servants’ quarters at the bottom of a five-acre garden. William had made his fortune in the lumber trade and was eager to be counted among the most powerful in newly thriving Buffalo. His wife, Juliabelle Chapin, was a Chicago society beauty from one of the richest families in America, and she had brought to her marriage a considerable dowry and pedigree. The house was a monument to William’s successes, both financial and social.
Alice was christened at the local Presbyterian church two weeks after her birth. Her parents had been married and childless for more than seven years prior to Alice’s birth, and they were overjoyed by the arrival of their much-longed-for child. Such doting, wealthy parents ensured that their daughter’s very early years were marked by an extraordinary degree of privilege. From the beginning, the attention of an army of nurses and nannies was lavished upon Alice. William and Juliabelle were determined that their daughter would never want for anything in life, and they set about providing her with the very best that money could buy. Baby clothes were made especially in expensive fabrics imported from Paris. Juliabelle would take regular shopping trips to Chicago, New York, and Boston, where she would purchase vast quantities of gifts and toys for her little girl. As Alice grew from infant to child, her parents supervised her education at home, employing private governesses who instructed her in French, German, reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. For her seventh birthday, Alice was given her own pony and trap. There is a delightful photograph in existence of a seven-year-old Alice dressed in a short jacket and smock with a straw boater, sitting proudly in the wicker trap and holding the reins of the small black pony. By all accounts, the very young Alice was a carefree and affectionate child who adored her parents and was devoted to her pets.
Even so, the union between Alice’s parents was far from easy. Juliabelle and William had always been something of a mismatch. William was robust, energetic, and careless. Juliabelle was more fragile, physically and emotionally, and prone to prolonged periods of sadness. What’s more, they were both from very different social backgrounds. William was born in Pleasant Prairie, Iowa, on February 3, 1867, the third of seven children born to Albert David Silverthorne and Clara Frances Hodgkins, a solidly “merchant class” couple. William’s father had made his money in the lumber business in the period after Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871, when construction materials were at a premium. William himself had gone into the family business at a young age, working his way up through the ranks from the most menial of positions to the highest of managerial levels. He quickly proved himself to be a natural and talented businessman with a powerful drive for financial gain in this most socially and professionally mobile of cities. He was good-looking and popular, made friends easily, and enjoyed socializing, carousing, playing cards, and chasing girls.
Born on August 14, 1871, Juliabelle was the youngest daughter of the union between two of the most powerful and elite Chicago families of the nineteenth century, the Armours and the Chapins. Her mother, Marietta Armour, was the sister of the famous Chicagoan Philip Danforth Armour, who is still listed as one of the forty richest American men of all time. Thanks to her father, Emery David Chapin, Juliabelle was related to the Springfield Chapins, founders and benefactors of Springfield, Massachusetts. Her paternal grandfather had made his money from investing in the railroads in Springfield, but the Chicago faction of the Chapin family was also associated with the meatpacking industry, much like their friends and colleagues, the Armours. When Juliabelle’s parents married, the Chapins and the Armours were united by wedlock, and not for the first time. In fact, there had already been several weddings between Armours and Chapins in Chicago, and by the late nineteenth century, the two families had become the city’s equivalent of royalty: Society columns were full of gossip about the family and their appearances at weddings, debutante parties, and other social events.
From birth, Juliabelle had been groomed to marry a wealthy and influential husband. Needless to say, when William Silverthorne began to pursue her, the Armours and Chapins were far from impressed. Despite William’s quite significant wealth and promising career as an entrepreneur, the Armours and Chapins considered him a highly inappropriate match for one of the most eligible heiresses in Chicago. Even though William could trace his ancestors back to their arrival in Virginia from England in 1656, the Silverthornes had become affluent through business endeavors, such as making felt and selling lumber, and were therefore deemed socially inferior. Furthermore, the Armours and Chapins wholeheartedly disapproved of William’s reputation as a drinker, gambler, and ladies’ man. Undeterred, William courted Juliabelle relentlessly, pursuing her with the same zest, determination, and enthusiasm that he usually reserved for his business deals. Eventually, his good looks, charm, and persistence won the day and he quite simply swept Juliabelle off her well-heeled feet. The undivided disapproval of her family notwithstanding, Juliabelle and William were married in Chicago on January 8, 1892. It was a modest affair by Armour and Chapin standards, with only close family in attendance. Shortly afterward, the couple left for Buffalo, where William and his brother Asa had recently purchased their own lumberyard.
At the time, Buffalo was the eighth-largest city in the United States. By the early 1900s, it had a population of close to 400,000. Its proximity to Niagara Falls made it a popular tourist destination, and as a railway hub, it was an appealing and efficient center of commerce for the many entrepreneurs—William and Asa included—who flocked to the city in the 1890s in the hope of making their fortunes there. Juliabelle began setting up house, but William was doggedly determined to build up his business and was often away for long periods at a time, traveling across the country as far afield as Arkansas and Missouri in order to open new sawmills and set up plants. The seven years in which the couple failed to conceive a child were a period of enormous loneliness for Juliabelle, who found herself living far away from her home and family and with a husband who was frequently absent. Although the eventual birth of her daughter brought her a degree of fulfillment, it could not mend her fractured marriage.
In the years after Alice’s birth, Juliabelle and William were unable to conceive another child, and although Juliabelle adored her only daughter, she continued to feel dissatisfied with her life in Buffalo. To make matters worse, her health was failing: She was weak and permanently tired. Meanwhile, William continued his regimen of working and heavy socializing. He was drinking, gambling, and spending more and more time in Chicago. There were rumors that he was having affairs, possibly even one with Juliabelle’s cousin Louise Mattocks (a member of the Chapin clan). By the early part of 1907, Juliabelle was beside herself with unhappiness. She was now convinced that her husband and cousin were having a relationship. Gathering up her courage, she confronted William. What followed was a vicious argument, which culminated in William’s locking her out of the house at night in the middle of the icy Buffalo winter. Juliabelle was not readmitted until the morning. Shortly afterward, she was diagnosed with vascular laryngitis. She died six months later, on June 2, 1907, at the age of only thirty-five. William had his wife embalmed with surprising speed, and she was buried two days later, on June 4, 1907.
William now found himself living alone with a young and very unhappy daughter. Juliabelle’s death was a crushing blow to Alice, who was deeply attached to both parents but who had always spent so much time with her mother. To a seven-year-old girl who woke up one morning to find her mother gone, it was little compensation that Juliabelle had willed an enormous inheritance to her daughter, placed in trust until she reached the age of eighteen. The trustees of the will were Juliabelle’s father, her mother’s elder brother, Simeon B. Chapin (Uncle Sim), and her mother’s elder sister, Alice (Mrs. Francis May, known as Aunt Tattie). Meanwhile, in an effort to ease Alice’s confusion and moderate his feelings of guilt, William redoubled his efforts to spoil his only daughter completely. He fawned on Alice, taking her with him everywhere he went. After Juliabelle’s death, they traveled to Chicago together and on a whirlwind tour of Europe, with William continually showering his daughter with gifts and indulgences. A dangerous expectation was being established between father and daughter—one that would forever complicate Alice’s relationships with men in the future. Whenever she wanted something from William, she was immediately and elaborately appeased.
There can be little doubt that William adored Alice, but it has to be said that he recovered from Juliabelle’s death with remarkable ease. Barely a year later, he remarried. As it turned out, Juliabelle had been correct in her suspicions that William and her cousin were having an affair. His bride was none other than her cousin, Louise Mattocks. The wedding ceremony took place at the American Church on the quai d’Orsay in Paris on July 8, 1908, with Alice and two witnesses in attendance. It is likely that William proposed to Louise before he left for Europe but that the engagement was kept secret in order to stifle the growing rumble of rumors back in Chicago. After the wedding, Alice accompanied her father and new stepmother on their lavish honeymoon around Europe. The Silverthornes traveled in the luxurious compartments of first-class train cars. They ate at the finest restaurants and stayed in the most well appointed of hotels. If William had set out to distract Alice from the death of her mother and to win over the heart of his new bride, this trip was certainly very successful, if fantastically costly.
For her part, Alice was developing an early and extensive knowledge of the great European cities. Before she was twelve, she had visited London, Paris, Nice, Monte Carlo, and Rome. She was a precocious child, and it seems she appreciated both the sights and the culture on offer. Throughout her life, she would continue to travel, always feeling more at home when abroad. During the honeymoon, Alice charmed her stepmother, and the pair developed a genuine soft spot for each other. In this difficult period after her mother’s death, the relationship with Louise must have been a welcome and stabilizing one. But William’s latest conquest only served to redouble his problems with the Armours and Chapins. He had married into their ranks for a second time, an unforgivable outrage. The two families also believed, possibly with some justification, that William was an inadequate father. By parading Alice around the best hotels and restaurants in the world, they believed, he would damage her development and reputation. They were horrified by William’s excesses and feared he would ultimately diminish Alice’s chances of being accepted in society.
William, of course, carried on after his own fashion. On returning from Europe with his daughter and new bride, he set about looking for a new home. William and Louise decided to leave provincial Buffalo for New York City, where William bought a house at 40 East 60th Street in Manhattan; he also purchased a weekend retreat in Sharon, Connecticut. Over the coming years, Louise had several children by William, only two of whom survived to adulthood, Bill, born in May 1912, and Patricia, born in July 1915. Despite these new arrivals, Alice remained her father’s particular favorite. At the age of twelve, she crossed the Atlantic in his company from New York to Cherbourg on the Aquitania, the magnificent Cunard liner. Alice liked to dress beyond her years, and William did not deter her. Even at twelve, she could pass for seventeen, and she relished wearing silk dresses and makeup. Everyone she met on the Aquitania treated her as an adult. Word reached the Armours and Chapins that William would deliberately fail to introduce Alice as his daughter, with the result that many aboard the ship assumed that this beautiful young woman was his companion. Although it is likely that the relationship between Alice and her father remained innocent, Alice’s relatives on her mother’s side found William’s approach to parenting distasteful and even outright obscene.
By 1913, William’s fast lifestyle and ever-increasing expenditures were beginning to catch up with him. Some of his investments were failing, but despite this, he continued to spend beyond his means. He had a reputation for extravagance and was determined to live up to it. In 1913, he bought himself a top-of-the-line Stoddard-Dayton motorcar with a six-cylinder, 8.6-liter Knight engine, hiring a uniformed chauffeur to drive him around town in it (his daughter would later inherit his taste for luxury American cars). No expense was spared to feed his appetite for ostentation; it is suspected—although not proved—that William was dipping into Alice’s trust fund in order to help with his business debts and to keep himself in the manner to which he had become accustomed. He was also drinking heavily and was almost certainly an alcoholic.
Then, in 1913, some kind of traumatic incident (or possibly an accident) involving William and Alice took place. Although we do not know the exact nature of the incident, we do know that it galvanized the Armours and Chapins. They became determined to act. That year, Juliabelle’s brother, Uncle Sim, decided to take action against William Silverthorne, applying for Alice to be made a ward of the court. Uncle Sim was a Wall Street broker, and a Chapin to boot. He could use his considerable influence and money to put forward the notion that William was an unfit father, that he had a reputation as a drinker and gambler, that he was failing to educate Alice properly, and that he was embezzling funds from her inheritance. The court in New York ruled in Uncle Sim’s favor. William lost custody of his daughter. Legal guardianship of Alice was awarded to Alice’s aunt Tattie. Juliabelle’s family had achieved their intended revenge: They had taken from William his most precious possession, his daughter.
For Alice, this must have been a period of extraordinary heartbreak and confusion. She was a thirteen-year-old, on the brink of puberty, accustomed to her father’s affection and indulgences. She would have been oblivious to the questionable morality of her relationship with William. She only knew she adored this man who had been the one constant in her life since the loss of her mother. Now Alice was sent to live with relatives whom she barely knew, in unfamiliar surroundings. Although William was far from an ideal parent, the effect of this severance on Alice was dramatic and damaging. She went from being the object of her father’s constant attention and care to being a complete exile from his presence and love. It's no wonder that as an adult Alice could react with astonishing violence when the men in her life threatened to leave her.
It was left to Aunt Tattie, Alice’s legal guardian, to look after her, to arrange for her to be educated, and to prepare her for adulthood. Aunt Tattie had no children of her own and no experience of child rearing. Although she was a kindly and well-meaning woman, she hoped to fashion her young charge into an obedient debutante, someone who would slip easily into Chicago’s elite circles. Alice had other ideas. She was entirely accustomed to a life lived on her own terms and did not adapt well to the limits imposed on her by her aunt’s vision. Doubtless exasperated, Aunt Tattie thought it best to send Alice away to boarding school. Alice was uprooted again, sent this time to Mount Vernon Seminary, a school for girls in Washington, D.C. A nonsectarian private school, it had been founded in 1875 by Elizabeth Somers. (The school has since been absorbed into George Washington University.) Alice stayed at Mount Vernon for the next four years. As a student, she excelled at English, and began to develop an interest in writing, publishing short stories and verses in the school’s magazine. One of her poems, which appeared in the Mount Vernon Seminary magazine in 1917—the year that the United States entered World War I—gives us an insight into her state of mind at this time.
BY ALICE SILVERTHORNE
A chill light shines in the sullen sky
With an angry sulphurous glow.
And a sharp wind sifts
Through the mountain rifts,
And whirls the leaves in eddying drifts,
To die on the earth below.
The grim-voiced winds are approaching fast,
Lean clouds slink out of the sky.
And a terror reigns
Amid the hurricanes
That whip the trees with the lash of rains
As the storm goes sweeping by.
So when you come, like the great red storm,
My cares, like the clouds, flee too.
And my heart leaps high,
With a happy cry,
Toward the turbulent blue of the wind-streaked sky,
Swept free of the clouds by you!
The poetry, although obviously amateur in nature, reveals a troubled sensibility and an intense longing in Alice. By the age of sixteen, she had suffered the death of her mother, separation from her father, and displacement on a number of occasions. It is hard to imagine that such a headstrong personality, who was used to being constantly appeased, would have adapted easily to the structured environment of a traditional girls boarding school. In her poem, when she longs for the clouds to be “swept free,” it is easy to interpret this as a cry for help to her father, whose leniency she must have sorely missed.
In fact, the turbulent weather Alice described in her poem had a direct correlation in her emotional life. Around the time of “The Storm,” she attempted suicide. Patsy Chilton—the former wife of Dr. Roger Bowles, who served as a part-time doctor to Alice in Kenya and who knew her well between 1938 and 1941—remembers being told by an American friend that Alice had tried to slash her wrists as a young girl at school. The attempt may have been simply a cry for help, inspired by the hope that her father would come to her rescue. There is no doubt that Alice was lonely and missing William during this period of her life, but it is also likely that she was already suffering from cyclothymia, a strain of bipolar disorder, or manic depression, which would afflict her for the rest of her life. It is extremely common for sufferers of this disease to first experience its symptoms during adolescence, at which point stress or trauma can easily trigger its alternating periods of lows and highs. Although Alice’s attempt to kill herself failed, it had an immediate impact on her life. Shortly afterward, she was taken out of the school and went to live with Aunt Tattie in Chicago.
Alice was now seventeen years old, extremely pretty, and advanced for her years. At Aunt Tattie’s, she quickly made a new friend, her cousin, the debutante Lolita Armour. Two years older than Alice and already a minor celebrity in Chicago, a young woman whose every appearance was reported in the newspaper gossip columns, Lolita was immediately attracted to her troubled but highly attractive younger cousin. Lolita’s mother, Mrs. J. Ogden Armour, was a patron of music and the arts and spent the war years raising money and helping to boost the morale of the troops. Alice was enlisted to help with the war effort by selling programs at charity events, knitting hats and scarves for the soldiers, and serving tea and coffee at church functions. Lolita also began introducing Alice to Chicago’s debutante circles, filling her in on all the latest gossip and goings-on among the most fashionable families in the city. Despite Alice’s recent difficulties, she found she socialized easily and, thanks to her good looks, was an appealing new presence on the Chicago scene. She was given her own “coming out” ball, after which she was quickly invited to all the good parties and social occasions, attracting the attentions of many of the city’s well-to-do young men in the process. Alice was now a full-fledged member of the Chicago elite. She served as bridesmaid at many of the Armour and Chapin family weddings during this time and appears in formal photographs, an especially attractive girl with a pout. She soon began to outshine all the other debutantes, even her cousin Lolita.
A newspaper illustration from her debutante years shows Alice’s early beauty to great effect. In the picture, her distinctive wide-set almond-shaped eyes are enhanced with mascara, kohl, and shadow. Her lips—painted and defined—form a perfect bow. Her hair is bobbed and waved, worn to one side, giving her the look of a silent film star, a Clara Bow or a Louise Brooks. Even at such a young age, her gaze in the illustration is assured rather than demure (if perhaps a little sullen). Now in her late teens, Alice had already learned to use her eyes in a highly seductive way, and she had no trouble getting the young men of Chicago to notice her: She would bow her head and look up, without diverting her gaze from the object of her attentions, allowing her suitor to talk, and continuing to look at him while inclining her head from side to side, giving herself an air of wonderment. This technique was highly effective and became a trademark with Alice. She was also nearsighted, but she rarely wore glasses, which gave her gray eyes an especially dreamy expression. Another distinctive feature was her voice, which, by late adolescence, was already lowering in tone. She had a ready and captivating laugh, and threw her head back as she did so. The only aspect of her physical appearance with which she struggled was her hair; it was thick, curly, and hard to control. She changed her hairstyle numerous times during her youth and adulthood, sometimes parting it down the middle, other times braiding it into buns on either side of her head. With the help of a maid or hairdresser she achieved the most glamorous effect by straightening her hair so that it was either sleek against her head or loose around her shoulders.
Initially, Alice enjoyed the attention she received at parties and in the press, but as she became more accustomed to the Chicago social whirl, she quickly began to tire of it. She possessed an adventurous spirit and hated to be placed in a box. Evidently, she was frustrated by the restrictions and unspoken codes of the debutante lifestyle, where she could barely move without being spotted and recognized. This was a somewhat shallow world ruled by somewhat shallow people who placed enormous value on the “right” makeup and clothes, and who cared most of all about whom you were seen with and where you had gone for dinner the previous night. No end of effort was made to look attractive. Chicago debutantes were known to take the train to New York just to have their faces, hair, eyebrows, and lips made up by Elizabeth Arden on Fifth Avenue before dashing back to Chicago in time to get dressed for the next ball. Alice, a natural beauty, had no such compulsion. She began to find the rounds of debutante parties unspeakably dull. It was at this point in her life that Alice began to explore Chicago’s seamier sides.
The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald dubbed the decade to follow the “Jazz Age,” but Chicago was ahead of the game. In 1918 and 1919, when Alice began to frequent Chicago’s nightclubs, jazz was helping to create a new atmosphere of postwar optimism and liberation that crossed racial and class boundaries. Partygoers were unhindered by Prohibition, which would begin in 1920. Alice learned to hold her liquor and loved to dance until the early hours. She was moving away from her elite circle and beginning to explore her identity outside of her family and their expectations for her. She was also meeting some decidedly shady characters. Organized crime was rife in Chicago. James “Big Jim” Colosimo, the most powerful mobster in the city, ran “the Outfit,” as it was known. His gang of Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Greek cohorts controlled the fourteen gangland districts of the city and all of the vice, gambling, and labor racketeering. When Al Capone fled Brooklyn in 1919 for Chicago, it was to join Colosimo’s ranks. Jazz clubs like the Green Mill, where Alice was a regular, were the places where the leading mobsters went to socialize and operate.
Around this time, rumors began to circulate that Alice was stepping out with a good-looking man of Italian descent with a doubtful reputation. The mobster in question has never been named, but later in life Alice spoke of him to her friend Margaret Spicer. This unnamed character couldn’t have been Al Capone, because he arrived for the first time in Chicago in 1919 (at which point he was newly married to an Irish girl baptised Mary but known as Mae), but there were plenty of other candidates. Whatever the exact identity of this new boyfriend, Uncle Sim and Aunt Tattie were, quite naturally, alarmed. It was feared that the gang member in question might begin to exert pressure on the wealthy Armour and Chapin families. Worse, the sensitive Alice could be dragged into a mire of criminality. Alice was popular with all her relations, who felt, quite rightly, that she was vulnerable. What’s more, she had recently come into her inheritance, and although the exact degree of her wealth is unknown, it is assumed she was worth several million dollars. In order to put some distance between Alice and the growing scandal, Uncle Sim and Aunt Tattie decided that the best course of action was to remove Alice from Chicago for a time. Aunt Tattie had an apartment in Paris, so it was decided that Alice should be taken there immediately.
Alice arrived in Paris with Aunt Tattie early in 1920, a few months before her twenty-first birthday. The two women installed themselves in Aunt Tattie’s apartment, close to the Bois de Boulogne, at 115, rue de la Pompe, from which Alice could explore the city. Paris had rebounded from World War I in spectacular style. The cafés of Montparnasse were awash with artists, composers, poets, and writers. In the city’s bals musettes and nightclubs, the strains of the same jazz music that Alice had loved in Chicago could be heard. Alice took to the city immediately. She was young and adventurous, keen to assert herself beyond the limited role established for her by her family. Aunt Tattie had friends who ran a small fashion house called Arnot in rue Saint-Florentin, near la place de la Concorde. Alice had always loved dresses and was already showing an excellent eye for fashion, and so Monsieur Arnot employed her as his head manageress in the shop and enlisted her help on buying trips. This was Alice’s first job and her first taste of an identity for herself as a woman with her own career and interests. The 1920s were an exciting time to be involved in dress design: These were the interwar years, a time of regeneration and abundance, and those in the fashion industry were taking full advantage of the new and exuberant mood. Waistlines were dropping, hems were rising, and corsets were being cast off. Alice thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent working at Arnot. During the day she worked, but in the evenings she socialized, eating in the best restaurants, mixing with artists and local celebrities, and visiting nightclubs and late-night bars, always dressed exquisitely.
Then, just as Alice began to take flight, she was brought quickly back down to earth. She was about to meet the man she was going to marry.
THE TEMPTRESS Copyright © 2010 by Paul Spicer.
1 The Heiress 11
2 The Countess 27
3 Kenya 43
4 Raymund and the Coup de Foudre 73
5 The Shooting at the Gare du Nord 93
6 Freedom and Exile 108 Seven: The Bride in Black and White 121
8 The Return to Happy Valley 131
9 The Gathering Storm 142
10 The New Elements 154
11 The Murder of Lord Erroll 165
12 The Trial of Jock Delves Broughton 174
13 The Case for Alice 182
14 A Green Bedroom Full of Flowers 190
Epilogue: The Missing Letter and the Great Beyond 204
Author's Note 211
Cast of Characters 223
Family Trees 233
Posted June 27, 2010
In 1899 Alice Silverthorne was born in Buffalo. Her father was a self made lumber baron and her mother a Chicago socialite. In 1913 the family imploded as law suits are filed to include custody of Alice. In 1920 Alice and her guardian Aunt Tattie go to Paris where she meets Count Frederic de Jantze. They marry and she gives birth to her first child in 1922. The family spends much of their time in Kenya. In 1927 Alice fails to kill herself and her lover Lord Raymund de Trafford when he dumped her. Five years later he becomes her second spouse. Meanwhile from almost her arrival in Kenya she has an affair for years with Joss Hay (Lord Erroll). In 1941 Joss is shot to death; soon after Alice commits suicide.
The cold case murder was international news in 1941 and made into a book by James Fox and movie White Mischief. Using family documents and photos as Paul Spicer's mom was a friend of Alice; the author makes a strong argument that the apparently passionate delusional Alice killed Joss and then herself. Historical fans and biographical readers will fully enjoy "The Scandalous Life of Alice de Jantze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll" as Mr. Spicer provides a deep nonfiction account in which he defends his assertion that Alice killed Erroll in her quest to be loved.
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Posted January 7, 2011
This book is ok, I enjoyed it, however the end gets pretty boring and obscure. The first half of the book I found myself absorbed in the story. But towards the middle I found myself wondering what this book was really about. Would be better described as a biography of this woman's life, than a story about an unsolved murder. Most of the story has nothing to do with the victim at all or his relationship with the assumed murderess. Lots of speculation that seemed somewhat far-fetched.
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Posted August 20, 2010
Spicer works hard to bring Alice to life: his research is impeccable but his prose is lackluster and his ability to breath life into such a fascinating subject is questionable. His hypothosis of the Erroll murder is well constructed and he makes a case for Alice-as-culprit. But he neglects her early life, gives little or no real information about why her father lost custody. Generally, he gives laundry lists of potential 'symptoms' of her psychological ills but he never attempts to capture her allure. The second half of the book, covering her life in Kenya, is better and it's clear that the writer is on more comfortable turf. However, it also seemed that he was much too afraid of insulting or offending people to write a serious biography without restraint, which is a pity because Alice deserves it.
I enjoyed this book but it lacks intensity. The writing is quite bland and so disconnected from its subject that Spicer seems to be offering apologies all 'round on Alice's behalf. He whitewashes so much that I found myself wondering more often than not what was cut from the text. All in all, a solid B but no more.
Posted December 21, 2012
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Posted November 5, 2011
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Posted March 22, 2011
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