Thursday, June 28, 2012

Murder in The First-Class Carriage

Murder in the First-Class Carriage. The First Victorian Railway Killing. Kate Colquhoun. 2011. Overlook Press. 352 pages. 

 Murder in the First-Class Carriage is a nonfiction account of "the first Victorian railway killing." The murder occurred in July of 1864. The victim, Mr. Briggs, was found after the discovery of the hat and all the blood. (His body was found on the railway tracks). The railway car--he'd been supposedly alone in the car--was covered in blood, and one of the only clues was a hat that didn't belong to the victim. It wasn't the only clue--a watch chain, I believe, was missing as well.

Money was offered as a reward for information, and many, many, many people came to share information. But most turned out to be false information or irrelevant information. But. Eventually the detectives were satisfied with a suspect, they chose to follow a particular lead ignoring all others that didn't quite match up. This took them on a little chase across the Atlantic. The alleged murderer having bought passage on a ship to the United States. So the detectives followed him, and arrested him in America. And this story captured attention in America as well even after the suspect returned to England to await his trial.

For me the most interesting aspect of the novel was the trial itself, the book focuses on the three days of trial and the oh-so-short jury deliberation. Readers get to view the legal system of the time, and get a unique perspective on the court system. Readers can "hear" the prosecutor and defense attorney make their cases and arguments. Readers can "hear" the witnesses on the stand. The last chapter or perhaps the last two chapters focus on the pros and cons of capital punishment, or at the very least the pros and cons of public execution versus private execution.

While this one did prove compelling--in places--I wouldn't say that it was that fascinating or compelling throughout the whole book. It worked, in places, but in other places it dragged a bit.

Read Murder in The First-Class Carriage
  • If you're a fan of mystery novels
  • If you're interested in true crime, true court cases, etc.
  • If you're interested in this time period--the Victorian era, the 1860s
  • If you're a fan of nonfiction

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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