I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane tells the true story of the 1871 unsolved murder of maid of all work Jane Maria Clouson. Police made a quick arrest of middle class Edmund Pook, but his trial did little to bring justice to Jane. Class tensions rose to a head, the police were made out to be fools and the whole trial turned into a fiasco. Murphy weaves the different storylines into one seamless, compelling narrative.
I enjoyed Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane (as much as one can enjoy reading about a horrific murder). Murphy does an excellent job bringing to life the different worlds Edmund and Jane lived in. We get plenty of details about the life of a maid, the world of the Victorian middle class and the ins and outs of Victorian police investigations and trials. My attention never strayed while reading Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane and I felt like I was reading the Victorian version of Dateline. Jane was portrayed sympathetically and I didn’t feel that her alleged killer was purposely vilified. The facts that were presented to readers were the same that were known in 1871; it never felt as though the story was embellished to make it more entertaining. Since Jane’s murder was never solved, it is frustrating not to end the book with a nice conclusion of who did it, why they did, and how they did it. I did appreciate Murphy pulling together a plausible account of the ‘who, why, and how’ at the end of the book based on today’s legal system and the known facts of the case.
Fans of true crime, as well as history buffs will enjoy Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane. It is well written and never drags. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy Victorian Crimes (such as books about Jack the Ripper) and as a ‘follow up’ read to Lucy Worsley’s The Art of the English Murder.