Monday, March 9, 2015

Death at the Priory by James Ruddick

book cover
Death at the Priory
by James Ruddick

ISBN-13: 9780871138323
Hardcover: 209 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Released: 2001; January 1, 2002

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description from Goodreads:
In 1875, the beautiful widow Florence Ricardo married the handsome and successful young attorney Charles Bravo and made her home at the Priory, a Gothic mansion in London, hoping to escape the scandals of her past. But Bravo proved to be a brutal and conniving man, and the marriage was far from happy. Then one night he suddenly collapsed, and three days later died an agonizing death. His doctors immediately determined that he had been poisoned.

The graphic and sensational details of the case captured the public imagination of Victorian England. The investigation dominated the press for weeks, and the list of suspects grew to include Florence; her secret lover, the eminent doctor James Gully; her longtime companion and housekeeper, Mrs. Cox; and the recently dismissed stableman, George Griffiths. But ultimately no murderer could be determined, and despite the efforts of numerous historians, criminologists, and other writers since (including Agatha Christie), the case has never been definitively solved.

Now James Ruddick retells this gripping story of love, greed, brutality, and betrayal among the elite, offering an intimate portrait of Victorian culture and of one woman's struggle to live in this repressive society -- and unmasking the true murderer for the first time. Simultaneously a murder mystery, a colorful social history, and a modern-day detective tale, Death at the Priory is a thrilling read and a window into a fascinating time.

My Review:
Death at the Priory is a true crime book about an unsolved murder that occurred in 1876 in England. The book described Florence's life leading up to her husband's murder and gave social and historical details to help the reader understand what her life was like. He then described the murder using the information that was publicly available at the time of the murder. He then eliminated suspects using his research into crime records that weren't publicly available and into what happened to the various suspects afterwards.

The author came up with a scenario for the murder that might be correct, but a lot depended on people not acting very logically (which leaves room for doubt). So the author didn't convince me that the murder had finally been solved. I didn't like how the author acted like certain conclusions were obvious and then pull out information we hadn't heard yet so we could catch up. I felt like he simply pulled out what supported his ideas. I was left wondering if there were potential clues that he also uncovered that he never told us.

I found the historical and social context interesting. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend the book to readers who like true crime and history.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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