Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder; The First Unsolved Murder of the Victorian Age

Pegasus Crime. Apr. 2016. 400p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781605989822. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681771205. CRIME
Victorian scholar Murphy (Shooting Victoria) tells the story of Jane Maria Clouson, a working-class servant girl, who was discovered barely alive by a constable on patrol in a remote part of London in April 1871. She was rushed to the hospital and a two-pronged investigation was launched: Who was she and who had tried to kill her? The police quickly turned their suspicions to the son of her former master Edmund Pook. In fact, investigators were so certain of Pook's guilt that they arrested him before having thoroughly dissected the homicide. Pook was eventually acquitted with the help of his attorney Henry Pook (no relation). The public rebelled and broke out with rough music protests. The court cases continued with Henry Pook filing charges against the police for misconduct and libel suits against the writer and publisher (and seller) of a pamphlet describing Edmund Pook as the killer. With the hindsight of history, Murphy lays out a compelling theory as to why he thinks Pook did indeed murder Clouson. Murphy also details two other trials taking place at the same time—hopefully these will inspire his next book.
VERDICT This fascinating account of a Victorian murder, complemented by the added strength of a rich description of the period's society and judicial system, should be a solid addition to academic and true crime collections.
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