Monday, September 10, 2012

The Case of Madeleine Smith

Nowadays, if someone wants to break up and not get married, she might just tell the guy in person, on the phone, by email, or, most impersonally, via text message. She probably would not resort to poisoning. In 1857 Scotland, prospects were not very good for an upperclass woman who wanted to be married respectably when she had an affair with a lowerclass gentleman, and so Madeleine Smith allegedly did treat her amour to some arsenic laced cocoa. Apparently Emile L'Angelier had an inkling about what was happening, and he began keeping a journal about his life and health. He also kept every letter she ever wrote him, more than 190 in all. Those letters, his journal, along with the sensational newspaper accounts of the events offer up much fodder for this adaptation.

As with many of Rick Geary's works, this volume in his Treasury of Victorian Murder series is meticulously researched and detailed. It offers a fascinating look at the courtship practices and legal procedures of the day. It also offers a compelling murder mystery narrative and also balances the tale out with journalistic and encyclopedic accounts. Geary's ability to simultaneously entertain and inform is on full display here.

The Case of Madeleine Smith has received many positive reviews. Andi Shechter praised Geary, writing that "in a relatively short work, he tells a richly layered story in a new way." Jason Sacks admits this is not his favorite book in the series, but he does still conclude that "in its depiction of class and morals and interesting people, this is an interesting and entertaining volume." Nicola Mansfield offered a more positive opinion, briefly summing up that this "book in Rick Geary's fabulous series is no less supreme than the others."

The book's publisher, NBM, offers a brief preview here.

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