Skip to main content

Review: Death at the Priory, by James Ruddick

Death at the Priory is the true story of a murder. In 1876, a London lawyer named Charles Bravo was poisoned to death in his suburban home, the Priory. Suspects abounded—the man’s wife, Florence; her ex-lover, Dr. James Gully; the housekeeper, Mrs. Cox; and the groom. But the case was never fully solved. In this book, James Ruddick offers a convincing solution to the mystery. The book is divided into two parts; the first covers the events of the murder and inquest, while in the second the author outlines his theory, narrowing the suspects down one by one.

This fewer-than-200-page book began in the late 1990s as a series of research papers, by an investigative journalist. As a result, the book is highly readable, with short, snappy chapters. But because the book is so brief, it really fails to even scratch the surface of what Victorian domestic life was really like. And the author makes a lot of generalizations about the Victorians (“theirs was a heavy drinking age”), without backing it up. In addition, he tries to force modern ideas upon Florence. The author assembled parts of the story through talking to descendants of the people that were involved; Ruddick actually seems offended by the fact that Gully’s descendant (an MP, by the way) wouldn’t talk to him. Lots of people are forthcoming with their family’s history, but a lot of people, especially those in the public eye, would rather leave the past in the past.

But this is not by any stretch of the imagination a scholarly work, and the author does an admirable job of telling the Bravo story. I do think he backed up his theory remarkably well—and I have to say that after reading this book, I’m convinced by it. It’s amazing that nobody in 1876, given the paucity of suspects, actually figured out what happened.


nbbaker1102 said…
This is an interesting idea for a book. I think my husband would be interested in something like this.

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…