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Friday, 24 April 2009

Dr Crippen rehabilitated

I finished reading Martin Edwards' Dancing for the Hangman - a fictional recreation of the events which led up to this infamous murder case. Crippen writes his version of his life in between conversations with his solicitor - who seems to have done him no favours - newspaper cuttings, extracts from evidence given at his trial and other contemporary documents.

Crippen himself comes over as a determined individual on the fringes of medicine even though he was a qualified doctor. It seems as though one of his main motivations was to earn enough money to keep his wife, Cora, in singing lessons and music hall costumes.

Crippen did not have private means and so he gravitated to the charlatan side of medicine in order to earn enough to support himself and his wife. He does not appear to have been terribly successful as a business man and was consequently just scraping by much of the time. He was by turns naive and knowledgeable about people and possibly trusted some to have his best interests at heart when they were simply furthering their own ends. Did he murder his wife? Will we ever know? This book certainly raises some interesting questions and puts forward one possible theory of how it happened.

I found the book fascinating and well written - though I have to confess to skipping over the gory bit! I thought the relationships between Crippen, his wife Cora and lover Ethel Le Neve were very well done and believable as was his relationship with the policeman in the case - Walter Dew. Did he think he got the right man? The way the media - then only newspapers - treated the case was also fascinating. Did they influence the outcome? We are never likely to know. Well worth reading whether you like crime fiction or true crime.

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