28 March 2010

Review DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN, Martin Edwards

Published 2008
I listened to this as an audio book from Audible.com after reading a recommendation on Reactions to Reading. The narrator was Jeff Harding who demonstrated incredible vocal versatility. It is available as an ISIS Audio Book, length 11 hrs & 26 mins, released 13 Jan 2010.

Martin Edwards begins with a true crime, taking the case of Dr. H. H. Crippen, hanged in 1910 for the murder of his wife Cora. The jury was told how he poisoned his wife, then cut her body into bits, disposing of some parts as rubbish, and then burying the rest of it under the brick floor of the cellar of his house.
Crippen nearly eludes capture, escapes via a boat to Canada, and is then met on arrival by Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard.
Did he do it? Was it murder? Was he rightfully hanged?
I know I am echoing the thoughts of others in saying this is a strong and persuasive fictionalisation, cleverly crossing that enigmatic border between fact and fiction seamlessly. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about the Crippen case to really tell the fact from the fiction. Martin Edwards has added an epilogue in which he explains what he has done in answer to some of the lingering puzzles related to the Crippen case.

DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN is written from Hawley Crippen's point of view in 1909-1910 as he first of all awaits sentence and then execution. He and his second wife Ethel were accused of the murder of his first wife Cora. Martin Edwards fleshes out Crippen's life from his childhood onwards, his marriage to Cora and his relationship with her, and then how Ethel enters his life. Crippen comes over as a person who really doesn't understand the forces and people who govern his life. He is very conscious of his own inadequacies, particularly of how others might see him, but there is also something unwholesome and tawdry about the sexual games he and Cora liked to play. He often doesn't really recognise how he is manipulated by others, and in particular he sees Ethel through rose-tinted spectacles.

So in DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN where does fact stop and fiction start? I don't really know, and I guess it doesn't really matter. If I had thought it was "true crime" then I probably wouldn't have read it.

My rating : 4.7
It certainly whiled away the time on a long flight!


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    1 comment:

    Margot Kinberg said...

    Kerrie - Thanks for this review. I'm actually very much looking forward to reading this. I've become a fan of Edwards Lake District series, and this one also looks terrific.

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