A Delusion Of Satan by Frances Hill
During the bleak winter of 1692 in the rigid Puritan community of Salem Village, Massachusetts, a group of young girls began experiencing violent fits, allegedly tormented by Satan and the witches who worshipped him. From the girls’ initial denouncing of an Indian slave, the accusations soon multiplied. In less than two years, nineteen men and women were hanged, one was pressed to death, and over a hundred others were imprisoned and impoverished.
This evenhanded and now-classic history illuminates the horrifying episode with visceral clarity, from the opportunistic Putnam clan, who fanned the crisis to satisfy personal vendettas and greed, to four-year-old “witch” Dorcas Good, who was chained to a dank prison wall in darkness till she went mad. By placing the distant period of the Salem witch trials in the larger context of more contemporary eruptions of mass hysteria and intolerance, the author has created a work as thought-provoking as it is emotionally powerful.
The Inheritor’s Powder: A Tale Of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel🎈
Available at any corner shop for little money and, because tasteless, difficult to detect in food or drink, arsenic was so frequently used by potential beneficiaries of wills in the first half of the nineteenth century that it was nicknamed “the inheritor’s powder.” But after wealthy George Bodle died under suspicious circumstances, leaving behind several heirs, the chemist James Marsh was brought in to see if he could create an accurate test pinpointing the presence of arsenic and put this Victorian scourge to rest.
Incisive and wryly entertaining, science writer Sandra Hempel brings to life a gripping story of domestic infighting, wayward police behavior, other true-crime poisonings, and an unforgettable foray into the origins of forensic science. She also solves this almost two-hundred year-old crime.
Queen Anne: The Politics Of Passion by Anne Somerset
Her personal life riven by passion, illness and intrigue, Queen Anne presided over some of the most momentous events in British history. Like Antonia Fraser’s life of Marie Antoinette or Amanda Foreman’s ‘The Duchess’, ‘Queen Anne’ is historical biography at its best.
In 1702, fourteen years after she helped oust her father from his throne and deprived her newborn half-brother of his birthright, Queen Anne inherited the crowns of England and Scotland. Childless, despite seventeen pregnancies that had either ended in failure or produced heartrendingly short-lived offspring, in some respects she was a pitiable figure. But against all expectation she proved Britain’s most successful Stuart ruler.
Her reign was marked by many triumphs, including union with Scotland and glorious victories in war against France. Yet while her great general, the Duke of Marlborough, was performing feats of military genius, Anne’s relationship with his outspoken wife Sarah was becoming ever more rancorous. Political differences partly explained why the Queen’s earlier adoration for Sarah transformed to loathing, but the final rupture was precipitated by Sarah’s startling claim that it was the Queen’s lesbian infatuation with another lady-in-waiting, Abigail Masham, that had destroyed their friendship.
Having lost the will to continue an expensive war that the Marlboroughs and their political allies favoured, the Queen embarked upon a peace process that some condemned as a betrayal of the national interest. And, as it became clear that Anne did not have long to live, the nation became polarised by fears that she intended to bequeath her crown to her Catholic half brother, rather than the German Protestant cousin whom Parliament had designated her heir.
Drawing widely on unpublished sources, Anne Somerset vividly depicts the clashes of personality and party rivalries that aroused such strong feelings at the time. Traditionally depicted as a weak ruler dominated by female favourites and haunted by remorse at having deposed her father, Queen Anne emerges as a woman whose unshakeable commitment to duty enabled her to overcome private tragedy and painful disabilities, setting her kingdom on the path to greatness.
Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends by Catie Gilchrist
Murder, manslaughter, suicide, mishap – the very public business of determining death in colonial Sydney. Murder in colonial Sydney was a surprisingly rare occurrence, so when it did happen it caused a great sensation. People flocked to the scene of the crime, to the coroner’s court and to the criminal courts to catch a glimpse of the accused.
Most of us today rarely see a dead body. In nineteenth century Sydney, when health was precarious and workplaces and the busy city streets were often dangerous, witnessing a death was rather common. And any death that was sudden or suspicious would be investigated by the coroner.
Henry Shiell was the Sydney City Coroner from 1866 to 1889. In the course of his unusually long career he delved into the lives, loves, crimes, homes and workplaces of colonial Sydneysiders. He learnt of envies, infidelities, passions, and loyalties, and just how short, sad and violent some lives were. But his court was also, at times, instrumental in calling for new laws and regulations to make life safer.
Catie Gilchrist explores the nineteenth century city as a precarious place of bustling streets and rowdy hotels, harbourside wharves and dangerous industries. With few safety regulations, the colourful city was also a place of frequent inquests, silent morgues and solemn graveyards. This is the story of life and death in colonial Sydney.
The Suitcase Baby by Tara Bretherton
SYDNEY, 1923: a suitcase washed up on a harbourside beach reveals its grisly contents – and from there, an extraordinary story unfolds.
True history that is both shocking and too real, this unforgettable tale moves at the pace of a great crime novel.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, 17 November 1923, a suitcase was found washed up on the shore of a small beach in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. What it contained – and why – would prove to be explosive.
The murdered baby in the suitcase was one of many dead infants who were turning up in the harbour, on trains and elsewhere. These innocent victims were a devastating symptom of the clash between public morality, private passion and unrelenting poverty in a fast-growing metropolis.
Police tracked down Sarah Boyd, the mother of the suitcase baby, and the complex story and subsequent murder trial of Sarah and her friend Jean Olliver became a media sensation. Sociologist Tanya Bretherton masterfully tells the engrossing and moving story of the crime that put Sarah and her baby at the centre of a social tragedy that still resonates through the decades.
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz
The riveting history of tuberculosis, the world’s most lethal disease, the two men whose lives it tragically intertwined, and the birth of medical science.
In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB—often called consumption—was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB. Koch soon embarked on a remedy—a remedy that would be his undoing.
When Koch announced his cure for consumption, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town doctor in England and sometime writer, went to Berlin to cover the event. Touring the ward of reportedly cured patients, he was horrified. Koch’s “remedy” was either sloppy science or outright fraud.
But to a world desperate for relief, Koch’s remedy wasn’t so easily dismissed. As Europe’s consumptives descended upon Berlin, Koch urgently tried to prove his case. Conan Doyle, meanwhile, returned to England determined to abandon medicine in favor of writing. In particular, he turned to a character inspired by the very scientific methods that Koch had formulated: Sherlock Holmes.
Capturing the moment when mystery and magic began to yield to science, The Remedy chronicles the stunning story of how the germ theory of disease became a true fact, how two men of ambition were emboldened to reach for something more, and how scientific discoveries evolve into social truths.
The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera, and the Mystery Of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel
In 1831, an unknown, horrifying and deadly disease from Asia swept across Continental Europe, killing millions in its path and throwing the medical profession into confusion. Cholera is a killer with little respect for class or wealth. When it arrived in Britain, its repercussions rocked Victorian England – from the filthy lanes of the Sunderland quayside and the squalid streets of Soho, to the great centres of power: the Privy Council, Whitehall and the Royal Medical Colleges. One man – alone and unrecognized – uncovered the truth behind the pandemic and laid the foundations for the modern scientific investigation of today’s fatal plagues. John Snow was a reclusive doctor, without money or social position, who had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day and work out that cholera was spread through drinking water. The book draws extensively on nineteenth-century medical, political and personal records in order to describe what is both an important breakthrough for medical science and also a dramatic story with a cast of colourful characters, from the heroic to the frighteningly incompetent. The book is also full of fascinating diversions into aspects of medical and social history, from Snow’s tending of Queen Victoria in childbirth, to the Dutch microbiologist Leeuwenhoek’s breeding of lice in his socks, and from Dickensian children’s farms to riotous nineteenth-century anaesthesia parties.
City Of Light, City Of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief Of Paris by Holly Tucker
Appointed to conquer the ‘crime capital of the world’, the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth, and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light.
The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic – not even the Sun King. In a world where a royal glance can turn success into disgrace, the distance between the quietly back-stabbing world of the king’s court, and the criminal underground proves disturbingly short. Nobles settle scores by employing witches to craft poisons, and by hiring priests to perform dark rituals in Paris’ most illustrious churches and cathedrals.
As La Reynie continues his investigations, he is haunted by a single question: Could Louis’ mistresses be involved in such nefarious plots? The pragmatic, and principled, La Reynie must decide just how far he will go to protect his king.
From secret courtrooms to torture chambers, City of Light, City of Poison is a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder. Based on thousands of pages of court transcripts, and La Reynie’s compulsive note-taking, as well as on letters and diaries, Tucker’s riveting narrative makes the fascinating, real-life characters breathe on the page.
Christina, Queen of Sweden by Veronica Buckley
The groundbreaking biography of one of the most progressive, influential and entertaining women of the seventeenth century, Christina Alexandra, Queen of Sweden.
In 1654, to the astonishment and dismay of her court, Christina Alexandra announced her abdication in favour of her cousin, Charles. Instrumental in bringing the Thirty Years War to a close at the age of 22, Christina had become one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe. She had also become notorious for her extravagant lifestyle.
Leaving the narrow confines of her homeland behind her, Christina cut a remarkable path across Europe. She acted as mediator in the Franco-Spanish War and, in return for financial support, was received into the Roman Catholic Church despite the fierce condemnation of her protestant countrymen. Christina settled in Rome at the luxurious Palazzo Farnese where she established a lavish salon for Rome’s artists and intellectuals. More than once she was forced to leave Rome while one scandal or another died down; she was painted a lesbian, a prostitute and even a hermaphrodite. Her most impassioned affair was with a well-connected Cardinal. Later, when financial support from the Pope and the Spanish crown dried up, Christina began to court French favour, eventually even plotting with them to overthrow the Spanish at Naples, where she hoped to be installed as queen.
Despite her political vacillations and a lifelong refusal to restrain her appetites, Christina ended her days in Rome relatively free from disfavour and financial strife. At the express order of the Pope, she was buried, with full ceremony, in the walls of St Peter’s Basilica, one of only two women to be so honoured.
Reminiscent of Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life, Buckley combines a personal approach with a lively interest in the social and historical world of seventeenth-century Europe to bring this remarkable personality to life.
The Doctor’s Wife is Dead: The True Story Of a Peculiar Marriage, a Suspicious Death, and the Murder Trial that Shocked Ireland by Andrew Tierney
A mysterious death in respectable society: a brilliant historical true crime story
In 1849, a woman called Ellen Langley died in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. She was the wife of a prosperous local doctor. So why was she buried in a pauper’s coffin? Why had she been confined to the grim attic of the house she shared with her husband, and then exiled to a rented dwelling-room in an impoverished part of the famine-ravaged town? And why was her husband charged with murder?
Following every twist and turn of the inquest into Ellen Langley’s death and the trial of her husband, The Doctor’s Wife Is Dead tells the story of an unhappy marriage, of a man’s confidence that he could get away with abusing his wife, and of the brave efforts of a number of ordinary citizens of hold him to account. Andrew Tierney has produced a tour de force of narrative nonfiction that shines a light on the double standards of Victorian law and morality and illuminates the weave of money, sex, ambition and respectability that defined the possibilities and limitations of married life. It is a gripping portrait of a marriage, a society and a shocking legal drama.
Mr Briggs’ Hat: A Sensational Account Of Britain’s First Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun
On 9 July 1864, after an evening with relatives, Thomas Briggs walked through Fenchurch Station and entered carriage 69 on the 9.45 Hackney-bound train. Little did he know that he was travelling into history …
A few minutes later, two bank clerks entered the compartment. As they sat down, one of them noticed blood pooled in the buttoned indentations of the cushions. Then he saw blood smeared all over the floor and windows of the carriage, and a bloody handprint on the door. Ladies in the adjacent carriage complained that their dresses had been stained by spurts of blood entering their window while the train was in motion.
But there was no sign of Thomas Briggs. The only things left in the carriage were his ivory-knobbed walking stick, his empty leather bag – and a hat that, stangely, did not belong to Mr Briggs …
So begins a breakneck-paced, fascinating Victorian true crime story – a story that obsessed the nation and changed rail travel for ever. With formidable narrative skill, Kate Colquhoun evokes the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian rail travel, and uncovers long-buried secrets from one of the most gripping murder investigation of that age.
The Trial Of Tempel Anneke: Records Of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663 edited by Peter A. Morton, translated by Barbara Dahms
The Trial of Tempel Anneke examines documents from an early modern European witchcraft trial with the pedagogical goal of allowing students to interact directly with primary sources. A brief historiographical essay has been added, along with eleven civic records, including regulations about sorcery, Tempel Anneke’s marital agreement, and court salaries, which provide an even clearer picture of life in seventeenth-century Europe. Maps of Harxbüttel and the Holy Roman Empire and lists of key players enable easy reference.
Hell’s Princess: The Mystery Of Belle Gunness, Butcher Of Men by Harold Schechter
In the pantheon of serial killers, Belle Gunness stands alone. She was the rarest of female psychopaths, a woman who engaged in wholesale slaughter, partly out of greed but mostly for the sheer joy of it. Between 1902 and 1908, she lured a succession of unsuspecting victims to her Indiana “murder farm.” Some were hired hands. Others were well-to-do bachelors. All of them vanished without a trace. When their bodies were dug up, they hadn’t merely been poisoned, like victims of other female killers. They’d been butchered.
Hell’s Princess is a riveting account of one of the most sensational killing sprees in the annals of American crime: the shocking series of murders committed by the woman who came to be known as Lady Bluebeard. The only definitive book on this notorious case and the first to reveal previously unknown information about its subject, Harold Schechter’s gripping, suspenseful narrative has all the elements of a classic mystery—and all the gruesome twists of a nightmare.
The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth
A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer–America’s first–who stalked Austin, Texas in 1885
In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens’ panic reached a fever pitch.
Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as “the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin.” And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.
With vivid historical detail and novelistic flair, Texas Monthlyjournalist Skip Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.
Childhood and Death in Victorian England by Sarah Seaton
In this fascinating book, the reader is taken on a journey of real life accounts of Victorian children, how they lived, worked, played and ultimately died. Many of these stories have remained hidden for over 100 years. They are now unearthed to reveal the hardship and cruel conditions experienced by many youngsters, such as a traveling fair child, an apprentice at sea and a trapper. The lives of the children of prostitutes, servant girls, debutantes and married women all intermingle, unified by one common factor – death. Drawing on actual instances of Infanticide and baby farming the reader is taken into a world of unmarried mothers, whose shame at being pregnant drove them to carry out horrendous crimes yet walk free from court, without consequence. For others, they were not so lucky. The Victorian children in this publication lived in the rapidly changing world of the Industrial Revolution. With the introduction of the New Poor Law in 1834 the future for some pauper children changed – but not for the better. Studies have also unearthed a religious sect known as the ‘Peculiar People’ and gives an insight into their beliefs. This book is not recommended for those easily offended as it does contain graphic descriptions of some child murders, although not intended to glorify the tragedies, they were necessary to inform the reader of the horrific extent that some killers went to. This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the social history of the Victorian period.
Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Horn
Today it is known as Roosevelt Island. In 1828, when New York City purchased this narrow, two-mile-long island in the East River, it was called Blackwell’s Island. There, over the next hundred years, the city would send its insane, indigent, sick, and criminal. Told through the gripping voices of Blackwell’s inhabitants, as well as the period’s city officials, reformers, and journalists (including the famous Nellie Bly), Stacy Horn has crafted a compelling and chilling narrative.
Damnation Island recreates what daily life was like on the island, what politics shaped it, and what constituted charity and therapy in the nineteenth century. Throughout the book, we return to the extraordinary Blackwell’s missionary Reverend French, champion of the forgotten, as he ministers to these inmates, battles the bureaucratic mazes of the Corrections Department and a corrupt City Hall, testifies at salacious trials, and in his diary wonders about man’s inhumanity to man.
For history fans, and for anyone interested in the ways we care for the least fortunate among us, Damnation Island is an eye-opening look at a closed and secretive world. With a tale that is exceedingly relevant today, Horn shows us how far we’ve come—and how much work still remains.
The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice by Judith Mackrell
Commissioned in 1750, the Palazzo Venier was planned as a testimony to the power and wealth of a great Venetian family, but the fortunes of the Veniers waned during construction and the project was abandoned. Empty, unfinished, and decaying, the building was considered an eyesore until the early twentieth century, when it attracted and inspired three women at key moments in their lives: Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse, and Peggy Guggenheim. Their extraordinary, acclaimed story is now available in paperback.
Luisa Casati turned her home into an aesthete’s fantasy, where she hosted parties as extravagant and decadent as Renaissance court operas, spending small fortunes on her own costumes in her quest to become a “living work of art” and muse. Doris Castlerosse strove to make her mark in London and Venice during the glamorous interwar years, hosting film stars and royalty at glittering parties. In the postwar years, Peggy Guggenheim turned the Palazzo into a model of modernist simplicity that served as a home for her exquisite collection of modern art. Each vivid life story is accompanied by previously unseen materials from family archives, weaving an intricate history of these legendary art world eccentrics.
Monster She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson
Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.
Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.
Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.
An Unconventional Wife: The Life of Julia Sorell Arnold
The page-turning biography of an Australian woman who refused to bend to the expectations of her husband and her time.
Julia Sorell was an original. A colonial belle from Tasmania, vivacious and warm-hearted, Julia’s marriage to Tom Arnold in 1850 propelled her into one of the most renowned families in England and into a circle that included Lewis Carroll and George Eliot. Her eldest daughter became a bestselling novelist, while her grandchildren included the writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, and the evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley.
With these family connections, Julia is a presence in many documented and famous lives, but she is a mostly silent presence. When extracted from her background of colonial life, extracted from the covers of marriage and family life, her story reveals an extraordinary woman, a paradox who defied convention as much as she embraced it.
What began as a marriage born of desire soon turned into a relationship riven by discord. Tom’s sudden decision to become a Catholic and Julia’s refusal to convert with him plunged their lives into a crisis wherein their great love for each other would be pitted against their profoundly different understandings of marriage and religion. It was a conflict that would play out over three decades in a time when science challenged religion, when industrialisation challenged agrarian forms, when democracy challenged aristocracy, when women began to challenge men. It was a conflict that would shape not only their own lives and that of their children, but also touch the lives of all those who came into contact with them.
Told with the pace, depth, and psychological richness of a great novel, An Unconventional Wife is a riveting biography that shines a shaft of light on a hidden but captivating life.