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Mr Crippen, Cora and the Body in the Basement (Hardback)

True Crime P&S History Social History

By Matthew Coniam
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 280
ISBN: 9781399009720
Published: 23rd September 2021

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It was an 'open and shut' case. Hawley Harvey Crippen, an American quack doctor, had murdered his wife, the music hall performer Belle Elmore, and buried parts of her body in the coal cellar of their North London home. But by the time the remains were discovered he had fled the country with his mistress disguised as his son. After a thrilling chase across the ocean he was caught, returned to England, tried and hanged, remembered forever after as the quintessential domestic murderer.

But if it was as straightforward as the prosecution alleged, why did he leave only some of the body in his house, when he had successfully disposed of the head, limbs and bones elsewhere? Why did he stick so doggedly to a plea of complete innocence, when he might have made a sympathetic case for manslaughter? Why did he make no effort to cover his tracks if he really had been planning a murder? These and other questions remained tantalising mysteries for almost a century, until new DNA tests conducted in America exploded everything we thought we knew for sure about the story. This book, the first to make full use of this astonishing new evidence, considers its implications for our understanding of the case, and suggests where the real truth might lie.

A well researched, entertaining and gripping true crime. I never heard about this case before and thoroughly enjoyed this well written book.
Recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought I knew this story but I was wrong.. The author, Matthew Coniam, wrote a fantastic and well-researched account of the infamous British Murderer, "Doctor" Crippen.
Now in all of my love of true crime and research, I have done myself, it amazes me that criminals of any kind were dumb enough to get caught back then.. I mean there was no DNA, no security cameras, no cell phones to track. yet they were sloppy and more often than not greedy.
As a history buff, a collector of true crime books, I will admit this is the first book of Matthew Coniam's I have read. But after looking into his other books, I will be reading more, and I think you will agree.

NetGalley, Natalie Freese

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fresh take on the infamous Dr Crippen case, incorporating new DNA evidence - I won’t say too much about the authors conclusions but this is an excellent and well researched book.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

Loved this book! Gave plenty of detail on the crime itself and also a feel for the times they were living in.

NetGalley, Stephanie Melucci

I have to say that I had never heard or read about this case, so everything I learned here was a surprise to me. The author did good research, and he tried to be as objective as possible, which I respect.

NetGalley, Laura N.

A highly well researched book. I liked that all angles were explored and it does seem that this is not as clear cut as it was believed to be.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Very interesting and well written account on this case!

NetGalley, Wendy S. Lovell

There can be few people that don't know that Crippen murdered his wife Cora, buried her in his basement and then fled with his mistress disguised as a boy to Canada and was trapped by the new wireless technology. Right? Well probably wrong, and Matthew Coniam explains why here.

The book is obviously well-researched and the author is able to agree with, or more often, refute assertions made by others with logical precision. He takes us back to the early days of the Crippens, shines a light on the quack profession Crippen engaged in and speculates on why following the birth of his son by his first wife, no further children were born.

I greatly enjoyed the read.

NetGalley, Cleo Pullen

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Time to clear your schedule for the afternoon, coffee pot on and phone turned off - you won’t want to put this one down. This was a compelling and thoroughly gripping read from start to finish with a great storyline, and all capped off by skilful writing. Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the advanced reading of this fantastic book!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

This is a fascinating persepctive on this case. I have read multiple books and articles over the years but this by far gives the most thorough information.
I highly recommend this book.

NetGalley, K.M. Kenyon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow, what a riveting book! Like others I have been fascinated by the story of "Doctor" and Cora Crippen which first made headlines in July, 1910 when a gruesome discovery was made in their cellar. Sensationalism doesn't even begin to cover it...dismemberment by someone knowledgeable about anatomy, a quack doctor, a theatrical wife, a mistress, poison, quicklime, theories, surmises, lies, deception and fleeing London for Canada.

Hawley Harvey Crippen and his actress wife Cora were Americans who lived on Hilldrop Crescent in London. Doctor Crippen was more of a quack, parting people from their money with sugar water cures. He also classified himself as a dentist. He and Cora enjoyed socializing and threw parties but the fun ended with the grim discovery in their cellar after Crippen and Ethel (who was living with him as his wife) fled London. When questioned about his professional pedigree, he readily admitted the stories he told his friends about Cora's death. His fleeing before the discovery seemed to point to his guilt. And it didn't help that he didn't defend himself yet he denied any part in the crime. Wonder what Ethel thought?

There is a plethora of questions in this case. Was the flesh found indeed Cora? If so, was it not overkill to use poison? And why get rid of bits of the body in a house rented by Crippens? And loads more, of course. So many interesting facts, including two coffins and quicklime...these really made me think. Cora sightings and hoaxes abounded which kept the cycle going.

The author's thorough research really shows, including new thought-provoking DNA evidence. The photographs in the book are fascinating. If true crime fascinates you, do read this incredibly readable and compelling book with differing viewpoints and conclusions, including that of the author.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Very interesting in-depth examination.

John George Haigh, Christie, Dr Crippen.....all well-known murderers from many years back. There is a fascination to know exactly what happened. I remember seeing a documentary a few years ago which suggested there had been new evidence found which brought some doubts relating to Crippen's case, so was very interested to read this book when I saw it newly available.

These sorts of books are usually very interesting and fascinating. I was anxious to get to the main part of the action, rather than a lot of social background, but I soon became engrossed in it. Not just about the murders, there's quite a bit of background to the Crippens coming to London, Cora being in music Hall etc.

This is well-researched, with mountains of information.

NetGalley, Julie Haigh

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

By far the very best coverage of the Crippen case, which has disturbed people for a hundred years. The writing is wonderful, flows like no other and you will not want to put this book down.
In addition to excellent writing the author brings out many previously glossed over facts. Crippen's and Ethel's behavior after Cora disappeared seems astonishing, strange and foolish. The author turns the facts over, this way and that, and shows how they simply could have been the actions of foolish young (?) lovers. Then again....
Of course, the piece de resistance is the issue with the new forensic work done on the remains, the forensic mindblower of all time. You have to read the book to learn about that. Some previous writers have made Crippen out to be a sweet, sensitive, quiet and unassuming man and he may have been all that. But he was also a dishonest businessman and a liar. Does that make him a killer?. What we do know for sure is that law enforcement was equally dishonest in this case.

NetGalley, Cecilia Vettraino Brown

I am a true crime buff, I watch anything about true crime and now am trying to read more about it, too. I must caveat that this tends to only stretch to UK crime as I find the American tales a bit sensationalised when they are on TV.

This review, however, is about a book so here we go. I absolutely loved this. It contains a lot of information that I was not aware of before. The writing style is very engaging and before I knew it, I was more than halfway through this book. I used to read on my way home from work but due to covid, I am working from home so do not have that time for escapism. I have a dedicated place for reading now and so I am getting back into my books.

I devoured this in two sittings. I didn't realise how long I was sitting down for, I was fully absorbed in this book and have recommended it to my friends who are like-minded and they are going to look into it when the book comes out.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, it was engaging, factual and not at all sensationalist. Looking forward to hearing more from this author in the future.

NetGalley, Tarv Panesar

I've long been fascinated by the subject of the book so was thrilled to be able to read this

Well researched
Well written - very accessible read and interesting

I thought it was a great read

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Clearly the author did a ton of research into this case! It was evident that he found the topic interesting and that he spent a lot of time reviewing information and making it accessible. I especially enjoyed the chapters dedicated to the theories of what really happened to Cora Crippen. These were possibilities I had never heard of before! I have read many mystery stories that reference Mr. Crippen, so it was interesting to get the background on the case and see for myself what was meant by that.

NetGalley, Katie Sauer

Got it and read it in the same day - this is a must for true crime addicts. Such a well known and well documented case must surely have no new insights to offer, right? This book proves that there is always something new to uncover and a new perspective to bring. Meticulously argued by an author who is clearly fascinated by Crippen, the book offers credible and somehow disturbing theories which really make you wonder…

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Very interesting. Well-written. I found the subject presented in an understandable manner and in a way that keeps your attention.

NetGalley, Norma Carroll

About Matthew Coniam

Matthew Coniam is the author of five previous books on subjects ranging from the Marx Brothers to Jane Austen and Egyptology. He lives in Bath with his wife and son.

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