Death at the Priory

Death at the Priory
James Ruddick

This edition of classic Victorian crimes revisited came out several years before Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher (another case taken from the files of William Roughead), and it’s actually a much better book. Ruddick does a standout job of research, going behind the public record of the famous poisoning case for new evidence and packaging the whole thing up as a tightly structured, real-life golden age whodunit. But though his final version of events is persuasively argued, I didn’t come away convinced that his conclusions were absolutely necessary, and thought in several places that he was being just a bit too quick to pat himself on the back. (Is it really likely the coachman wrote the anonymous letters? Was he even literate?) But perhaps I’m just skeptical of how well we can ever hope to reconstruct historical events, and in cases like this I’d like to hold on to a bit of mystery.

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