Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The First Unsolved Murder of the Victorian Age
Paul Thomas Murphy
True Crime, Non-Fiction, History
April 11th 2016
On April 26th, 1871, a police constable walking one of London’s remotest beats stumbled upon a brutalized young woman kneeling on a muddy road—gashes were cloven into her skull; her left cheek was slashed open and smashed-in; her right eye was destroyed; and above it a chunk of the temporal bone had been bashed out. The policeman gaped in horror as the woman held out her hand before collapsing into the mud, muttering “let me die” and slipping into a coma. Five days later, she died, her identity still unknown.
Within hours of her discovery on Kidbrooke Lane scores of the officers of Greenwich Division were involved in the investigation, and Scotland Yard had sent one of its top detectives, John Mulvany, to lead it. After five days of gathering evidence, the police discovered the girl’s identity: Jane Maria Clouson, a maid in the house of the renowned Pook family . . . and she was two months’ pregnant with Edmund Pook’s child when she died.
Murphy carefully reviews the evidence in the light of 21st century forensic science in order to identify Jane’s killer as Edmund Walter Pook. Using a surprisingly abundant collection of primary sources, Murphy aims to recreate the drama of the case as it unfolded, with its many twists and turns, from the discovery of the body to the final crack of the gavel—and beyond.
I had the pleasure of reading Paul Thomas Murphy’s “Shooting Victoria” last year and really enjoyed it. So when I saw his latest book pop up on NetGalley, I knew I wanted to read it. When I was approved for a copy, I started reading it right away and devoured it. This is another great one by Murphy.
I expected this to be just about the murder of Jane, but Murphy dives in deep. Not only do we get a fascinating account of the events surrounding Jane’s actual murder, but we follow the court battle and its aftermath. More than that, Murphy goes into how the murder affected and was reflected in the culture. Murphy goes far beyond the basic timeline events and, through his intensive research, adds so much to this tale.
I don’t want to say too much as I think this book is best if you go into it knowing as little about the crime as possible, but I’ll say that if you like true crime, non-fiction, and/or history, I’d highly recommend this book (and if you like this one, don’t forget to check out “Shooting Victoria”).
**I received this copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**