July 1910: A gruesome discovery has been made at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden.
Chief Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard did not expect the house to be empty. Nor did he expect to find a body in the cellar. Buried under the flagstones are the remains of Cora Crippen, former music-hall singer and wife of Dr. Hawley Crippen. No one would have thought the quiet, unassuming Dr. Crippen capable of murder, yet the doctor and his mistress have disappeared from London, and now a full-scale hunt for them has begun.
Across the Channel in Antwerp, the S.S. Montrose has just set off on its two-week voyage to North America. Slipping in among the first-class passengers is a Mr. John Robinson, accompanied by his teenage son, Edmund. The pair may be hoping for a quiet, private voyage, but in the close confines of a luxury ocean liner, anonymity is rare. And with others aboard looking for romance, or violence, or escape from their past in Europe, it will take more than just luck for the Robinsons to survive the voyage unnoticed.
An accomplished, intricately plotted novel, Crippen brilliantly reimagines the amazing escape attempt of one of history's most notorious killers and marks the outstanding American debut of one of Ireland's best young novelists.
Starred Review. 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.)
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Thomas Dunne Books
July 06, 2008
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