Unsolved Murder in the Victorian Age



Book review: Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane

Interesting, quickly readable history with some modern interpretation of an officially “unsolved” Victorian murder. A teenage maid was murdered and the son of her former employing family is suspected and tried for it, police make some big mistakes, witnesses misremember, societal tensions, some pretty damning evidence, no other obvious suspect, a twist here and there…all the elements for good true crime!

The story traces the events that transpired before the murder, the trial of the main suspect and aftermath, and the author’s deductions about what really happened, thanks to some application of modern deductive forensic methods. That last element was the part I enjoyed most, and it’s a shame that some relics of the crime that were once displayed in a secretive Scotland Yard crime museum have since disappeared, as the author tells it.

There was a little much of the legal proceedings and the civil cases that followed the criminal one for my taste, so I wasn’t completely crazy about it. But the story is pretty gripping, author commentary on the facts is quite good, and the events are nicely placed within the context of the times, which was interesting even for someone like me who’s not necessarily drawn to Victorian-era stories. I can only imagine how fascinating of a read this would be for readers who are already familiar with or even more interested in the historic era.

Interesting tidbit: the book’s title comes from a penny dreadful of the same name published shortly after the murder.

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The First Unsolved Murder of the Victorian Age
by Paul Thomas Murphy

Published in the US by Pegasus Books on April 15, 2016 and in the UK by Head of Zeus on July 14, 2016.

I received a copy of the ebook courtesy of the UK publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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