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Crippen: A Novel of Murder


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About the Author

John Boyne was born in Dublin in 1971. His first short story was published in the Sunday Tribune and was subsequently shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award. He is also the author of The Thief of Time and The Congress of Rough Riders (a novel about Buffalo Bill). The character of Matthieu Zela appears in all his novels.


Had Charles Dickens been around to turn his talents to fictionalizing the classic Crippen murder case, the result might well have been close to this superb, multifaceted novel from Irish author Boyne (The Thief of Time). The crime, a cause celebre in 1910, is probably best remembered for its denouement, which featured a race across the Atlantic by Scotland Yard Insp. Walter Dew in pursuit of his suspects aboard a cruise ship. Boyne brings all the characters in this drama to life, skillfully shifting perspectives and using flashbacks and flash-forwards. While his depiction of Hawley Crippen, a quack and self-proclaimed doctor with a disturbing taste for butchery, and his mistress is admittedly speculative, the author's imaginings of their inner lives and motivations are plausible. His version of the events of the night when Crippen's harridan wife met her gruesome death is convincing, despite the lack of historical support. Boyne is to be commended for his ability to alternate between Wodehousian humor and Edwardian noir. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"The truth always outs," states Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard. Or does it? Boyne (The Thief of Time) blends fact, fiction, and supposition in a suspenseful tale based on the 1910 transatlantic pursuit of Dr. Hawley Crippen for the murder and brutal dismemberment of his wife, Cora. The novel seamlessly blends several story lines, following Hawley and lover Ethel, disguised as father and son, as they board a cruise ship headed for Canada (and, they hope, freedom) while also tracing the life of Hawley and of those connected to him from his infancy to his execution for Cora's murder. Unlike historical perspectives that mention Crippen and Jack the Ripper in the same breath, Boyne's Crippen is more sympathetic, although certainly frightening at times. Despite having to capture such a long time frame, Boyne does an excellent job of condensing and elaborating exactly where and when he should. His characters are wonderfully memorable and engaging, and this book will satisfy patrons with a thirst for dramatized true-crime stories. Highly recommended for all popular fiction collections.-Susan O. Moritz, National Gallery of Art Lib., Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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