#BookReview MURDER:THE BIOGRAPHY by KATE MORGAN #20BooksOfSummer21 #nonfiction

Book 3 of my 20 Books of Summer 2021

MURDER: The Biography by KATE MORGAN


Totally gripping and brilliantly told, Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder.

The stories and the people involved in the history of murder are stranger, darker and more compulsive than any crime fiction.

There’s Richard Parker, the cannibalized cabin boy whose death at the hands of his hungry crewmates led the Victorian courts to decisively outlaw a defence of necessity to murder. Dr Percy Bateman, the incompetent GP whose violent disregard for his patient changed the law on manslaughter. Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England in the 1950s, played a crucial role in changes to the law around provocation in murder cases. And Archibald Kinloch, the deranged Scottish aristocrat whose fratricidal frenzy paved the way for the defence of diminished responsibility. These, and many more, are the people – victims, killers, lawyers and judges, who unwittingly shaped the history of that most grisly and storied of laws.

Join lawyer and writer Kate Morgan on a dark and macabre journey as she explores the strange stories and mysterious cases that have contributed to UK murder law. The big corporate killers; the vengeful spouses; the sloppy doctors; the abused partners; the shoddy employers; each story a crime and each crime a precedent that has contributed to the law’s dark, murky and, at times, shocking standing



This was a fascinating and detailed exploration of the art of Murder! The infamous, and not so famous, cases over the years that have shaped the way we view murder and how the lines blur from case to case, showing up the gaps in law that can’t cope with the dark and disturbing acts committed by humans.

The author has done a brilliant job of looking back over time at a number of different cases over hundreds of years. How crimes have changed and how the punishments too have differed over the years. From the death penalty to the use of secure hospitals for those claiming mental instability.

Some of the cases I’d heard of so they did resonate, but I was equally fascinated by the cases that had passed me by showing the dark and disturbing and it does a brilliant job of opening topics up to debate – from the appeal system, the difference between murder and manslaughter and how we all become ‘armchair lawyers’ when a high profile case hits the media. And even goes into how crimes cross over into films and tv, and how the public fascination with these horrific crimes never seems to wane.

I learnt so much from this book – including the background to the phrase ‘sweet fanny adams’ to what used to be built on the site of Liverpool Street Station – along with a greater understanding of the process behind the scenes and how cases are dealt with and I found it to be a real eye-opening read.



#BookReview THE FIVE by HALLIE RUBENHOLD #NonFictionNovember


Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that “the Ripper” preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

published by Doubleday


Amazon UK  




Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary Jane. Names we should all know considering their place in crime history, but many of us don’t as more focus is placed on the perpetrator of the crimes against them than the actual victims. But in this staggering work, the author has set about redressing the balance so we can get to know more about the women who were brutally murdered in London in 1888 by Jack the Ripper.

The attention to detail throughout is staggering and I can only begin to imagine how long it must have taken the author to put this work together. Each woman is given their own section so that their story can be fully told through painstaking research into family trees, newspaper reports and police statements from family and friends, and it just makes for such absorbing reading. It gives you a real glimpse into life in those times, the bleakness, the struggles and the human side of these women who were dealt a rough hand throughout their lives, only for them to be ended in such horrific ways, and then their characters talked down after their deaths.

But this book gives these women a voice, so we learn of their upbringings, the family history and they all came from different backgrounds so there’s so many interesting things to learn about life in the past – the attitudes of society, the family dynamics and the devastating effects of addiction are brought to the front and your heart just bled for these women. However they tried to improve their circumstances, there was always something just around the corner to bring them down once more.

What I also found most profound was the list at the end of the book which was which items the women had on them at the time of their murders. Very poignant and really hit home of just how tragic their lives were.

Mixed in with the local news at the time, the good(well known) and the bad (much less reported!), this book does a magnificent job of transporting the reader back in time and I found it truly astonishing 
and enthralling. A must read and one of my books of 2019!


#BookReview Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins #Persephonereadathon

Have had a great start to the month of June by taking part in the mini Persephone Readathon hosted by the lovely Jessie at Dwell In Possibility! Managed to finish one book and make my way through half of another book, so hopefully there’ll be another Persephone review on its’ way very soon! 

But first here’s a bit more about the book I finished and my thoughts!

Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins

About the Book

Harriet Ogilvy is a young woman with a small fortune and a mental disability, making her the ideal target for the handsome and scheming Lewis Oman. After winning Harriet’s love, Lewis, with the help of his brother and mistress, sets in motion a plan of unspeakable cruelty and evil to get his hands on her money. With consummate artistry, Elizabeth Jenkins transforms the bare facts of this case from the annals of Victorian England’s Old Bailey into an absolutely spine-chilling exploration of the depths of human depravity.

Based on the real-life 1877 case of Harriet Staunton, Harriet (1934) was a bestseller and a major critical success, beating Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust to win the Prix Femina. This edition features a new afterword by Dr. Catherine Pope. 


Seems strange to say you ‘enjoyed’ a book that was so disturbing and based on the real life case in 1877 of Harriet Staunton (the Penge Murder Mystery), but I found myself captivated and horrified in equal measures over this story.

Harriet is at the centre of the story. She had learning difficulties and was cared for by her mother, Mrs Ogilvy, until her head was turned by a chancer who promised her the world, but was really only interested in the money that Harriet had for her care after a relative left her a large amount in their will.

You can feel the agony of the mother as she watches her daughter be taken in by this man and his family who make Harriet feel that her mother has been ruining her life. But once Harriet has left and married her life is changed as she loses that care and attention from her mum, and is cruelly treated by Lewis, his brother, his sister in law and her sister, who see her as an inconvenience to be locked away out of sight. She is made to cut all ties to her mother – another heartbreaking element to the whole story.

Even when Harriet falls pregnant there seems little care or concern by those people and it was heartbreaking to see them living life to the full with no thought to Harriet and her son. After reading this book I looked up details of the real case and it made it even more tragic to read of the treatment she received.

A story that will stay with me for a long time to come.