A vivid investigation into the unsolved murder case that shocked Victorian England, by the author of the New York Times Notable Book Shooting Victoria.
On April 26th, 1871, a police constable walking one of London’s remotest beats stumbled upon a brutalized young woman kneeling in the muddy road, her face smashed and battered. The policeman gaped in horror as the woman stretched out her hand to him, collapsed in the mud, muttered “let me die,” and slipped into a coma. Five days later, she died, her identity still unknown.
Within hours of her discovery, scores of Metropolitan Police officers were involved in the investigation, while Scotland Yard sent one of its top detectives to lead it. On the day of her death, the police discovered the girl's identity: Jane Maria Clouson, a sixteen-year-old servant to the Pooks, a respectable Greenwich family. Hours later, they arrested her master's son, twenty-year-old Edmund, for her murder.
An epic tale of law and disorder, Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane is the story of a criminal case conducted at the time of the birth of modern forensic science. It is the story of the majesty–and the travesty–of the nineteenth-century British legal system: the zealous prosecutors determined to convict young Pook; and the remarkable lawyer equally determined to obtain his acquittal by any means possible. At the heart of this story are the alleged killer and his alleged victim: Edmund Pook, the young Victorian gentleman caught up in a legal nightmare, and Jane Maria Clouson, the young maid whose hard life before her tragic death serves as a bracing corrective to Downton Abbey fantasies about the lives of British servants.
Using an abundant collection of primary sources, Paul Thomas Murphy creates a gripping narrative of the police procedural and the ensuing legal drama, with its many twists and turns, from the discovery of the body until the final judgement–and beyond. For while the murder of Jane Clouson has for nearly one hundred and fifty years remained unsolved, much of the evidence remains, and Murphy, applying contemporary forensic methods to this Victorian cold case, reveals definitively the identity of Jane Clouson's murderer–and provides the resolution that Jane's angry supporters long ago demanded.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The 1871 murder trial that shook England! My thanks go out to all my contacts at Pegasus Books for my copy of this collection of vampire stories! Thank you so much! On April 26, 1871, a policeman discovered a young woman in the darkness of Kidbrooke Lane in London. She was barely alive, having been beaten severely with what later proved to be a hammer used in lathe-work. She had missing pieces of skull and jaw and her brains were exposed. Five days later she succumbed to her wounds. Her words before her death indicated that Edward Pook may have been involved in her death. Pook was from a good family with both money and reputation. Jane had worked for them until just about a week before her death when she was dismissed from service. Rumor was that Jane, who was pregnant, was carrying Edward Pook’s child. This case could have easily been the OJ Simpson Trial of 1871! You had a person of some standing accused of a violent murder. Pook’s father, with the financial backing of other businessmen, hired a dream team of lawyers. The Judge in the case was criticized for controversial rulings. The lawyers’ strategy was to attack the police, not the evidence. They also disparaged the victim herself; Edward calling her “a very dirty girl.” The feeling was in the end that Edward had been found “not guilty” because of who he was. He also had a ruthless team of lawyers who didn’t blink at destroying police reputations. Also, in the end, no one was ever charged. It seems most likely that Edward was indeed guilty. Anyone who loves the details of courtroom drama or the mysteries of unsolved crime will greatly enjoy this book. It has the police investigation, the coroner’s report, trial transcripts, etc. Probably punched up a little for dramatic effect, it still checks with the historical facts. I give this human drama five stars! Quoth the Raven…
Jane Clouson is found on Kidbrooke Lane dying after a vicious beating. She is taken to the hospital where she later dies. The police now have to find the murderer. As they look at her short life and listen to what her friends have to say they believe they have found their murderer and arrest him. Next comes the court of law and the court of public opinion. This is interesting. Mr. Murphy uses modern forensic techniques to review the case and show who the murderer is. Unfortunately, forensic science was just beginning in 1871 and what we know now is not what they knew then. Because of technicalities and a "judge" who had made up his mind, this case seems like a travesty of justice. I liked how each person is followed through the book. I also liked the synopsis of how modern forensics would prove who the murderer is as well as how the police put their case together. I like the history
Great tale and would make an amazing movie. It so much parallels what is happening today--privilege and confusion, moral outrage and class distinctions, wish over fact. This is a really great book, thoroughly researched, very well written and great story telling. A mix of gripping tale and serious work. Buy it.
Boring. Didn,t even finish the last 2 chapters. Took me forever to read just what i did read. Jumps around too much with other trials.