2009: 94. Death at the Priory

“On a warm April morning in 1876, the body of a young barrister named Charles Bravo was carried out of a house in Balham, south London.”

Death at the Priory: Sex, Love, and Murder in Victorian England, James Ruddick

       Ok, I liked this one.  It isn’t Faulkner, but it is a flat out enjoyable historical true crime book, which is one of my very favorite types of books.  Even better, Ruddick has come up with a solution to a long-unsolved famous British poisoning, one that intrigued figures as disparate as Cyril Connelly and Agatha Christie.  Now, I’m saying I necessarily believe he solved it, but I like his style - he makes a case and argues it reasonably convincingly, and I’ve read a bunch of historical mysteries lately that sort of end back up at “well, no one knows” and so I appreciate his chutzpah in declaring the mystery solved.   Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t high art, but it’s reasonably well researched, and it’s reasonably well written,* and (best of all) the plot is totally salacious! You have divorce, and extramarital sex, and murder and Victorian times, and it was great. I couldn’t put it down, really.  

       It’s story of Florence Bravo, whose husband, Charles, was murdered by poison (after lingering for days)! Who killed him? Was it suicide? Florence? Her companion, Mrs. Cox? Her former lover, the famous physician James Gully? The recent fired stableman?  It’s like a true life Agatha Christie novel, and if you like murder, or history (since he does a reasonably good job discussion Victorian mores), Death at the Priory is great fun.

*You need to understand, if you don’t read true crime, a lot of it is so trashy that it is basically unreadable, so this is a HUGE plus in the genre.


Date/Place Completed:  August 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017