Did she kill him by Kate Colquhoun

Did she kill him by Kate Colquhoun – a Victorian tale of deception, adultery and arsenic – is the second book I read by her, with the first one being Mr Briggs’ Hat, the story of the first murder on the railways in Britain. The story is fascinating, in the summer of 1889 the American-born Florence Maybrick was put on trial for killing her husband James. This happened in Liverpool, see details of the picture, so it was even more exciting and intriguing to read about it.

Did she kill him by Kate Colquhoun

Despite this being the second book with a similar approach, the retelling of a Victorian mystery, she did a worse job, hence the 3 stars. I would recommend the book for readers not too bothered with faffing around and a journalistic-sensationalistic narrative. The trial was a sensation when it happened as it was widely reported in the newspapers, people got involved and sent letters, and there was even a wax figure of her made and displayed in Madame Tussaud’s.

The book though doesn’t analyse enough what were the possibilities. What the doctors said and how the trial progressed is presented without interpretation, although she is making all sort of assumption of how x felt and so on. The book made me want to read more about Florence, so I reserved another book about her at the library and an additional book about her husband, there are some fascinating aspects there too.

Did she kill him by Kate Colquhoun

Details about the picture: In the background is St. George’s Hall, now a museum and events venue, but it was used as the Liverpool Assizes after its completion in the 1850s. This is where Florence Maybrick’s trial was.
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Little, Brown
Year it was published: 2014
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): History
Pages: 419

About the author: Kate Colquhoun is a biographer and historian. Her first book A Thing in Disguise: the visionary life of Joseph Paxton (Fourth Estate, 2003) was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper prize, nominated for the Samuel Johnson award and was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. She also wrote Taste: the history of Britain through its cooking (Bloomsbury, 2007).
Mr Briggs’ Hat (Little, Brown, 2011) was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association silver dagger award, translated widely and filmed for BBC TV. Another book, Did She Kill Him? (Little, Brown 2014), investigates the story of Florence Maybrick, an American ingénue tried for the murder of her older cotton-broker husband James in Liverpool in 1889.
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4 thoughts on “Did she kill him by Kate Colquhoun”

  • This sounds like another interesting crime, but it also sounds like the author might be making it into a bit of a “true crime” story with her approach. I don’t mind an author sharing their ideas about something as long as they present all the facts first.
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    • It was more of a feminist approach, as in: they were saying that and that because she was a woman. At one point she mentioned when the suffragette movement was born, as if it had a direct influence on the trial and an important one too. A bit too much was made of contemporary literature, for example, instead of analysing maybe with a doctor, what could have happened with the husband or the judge (it was a thing there too).

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