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The Murders of Annie Hearn (Hardback)

The Poisonings that Inspired Agatha Christie

P&S History > True Crime

By Dr Jonathan Oates
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399056564
Published: 10th April 2024



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In the quaint seaside town of Bude, Cornwall, a seemingly innocent afternoon tea in 1930 unravels into a sinister tale of arsenic poisoning and mysterious disappearances. When one of the three tea companions succumbs to the deadly toxin, suspicions arose, and the plot thickens as Annie Hearn, one of the remaining survivors, vanished without a trace. As the press dug into Annie's enigmatic past, unsettling stories emerged.

In the backdrop of this gripping mystery, doctors grow wary of a peculiar pattern—multiple deaths within the same house, all linked by the insidious presence of arsenic. This book delves into the heart of the investigation, unraveling the intricate web of deceit, betrayal, and murder. Who committed these heinous crimes, and why? The answers lie shrouded in the secrets of a Cornish village, in this case that was later adapted by the legendary Agatha Christie in her Hercule Poirot novel, "Sad Cypress." Prepare for a journey through the dark alleys of a bygone era, where every sip of tea holds the potential for deadly secrets.

By combining strong, detailed primary documents with concise, useful prose, Oates turns this historical event into a digestible, interesting, and entertaining read. Good for Christie fans and historians alike, Oates’ latest book brings some historical true crime to life.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

As a writer of true crime myself I can see what work has gone into the book.

The research is detailed and shows many years of work. The story in itself is something I have not heard of which makes the best crime novels.

The book is easy to read as it provides a novel-like feeling with the way the story unfolds. The work is so well referenced though you never forget you are reading a true crime case.

Loved this book if that is the right thing to say about this type of book I look forward to checking more out from this author.

NetGalley, Sam Arnold

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A book I recommend to anyone who loves Golden Age mysteries and Agatha Christie above all.
Well researched and gripping.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Widely researched and impeccably compiled account of a series of poisonings by arsenic and strange disappearances following an innocuous afternoon tea in the small town of Bude, Cornwall, 1930. As survivor, Annie Hearn, swiftly disappears so begins an investigation into her and her whereabouts. Billed as the case which inspired the Agatha Christie classic, ‘Sad Cypress’, it develops into an intriguing mystery as layers are peeled back and more dark secrets come to light. Engaging, compelling and well written.

NetGalley, Ruth Giles

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Murders of Annie Hearn by Jonathan Oates is a must-read for anyone who is a lover of a good mystery. (What could be more intriguing, more compelling, than the true story that inspired Agatha Christie, the matriarch of the Mystery genre to write "Sad Cypress" one of her most popular Poirot novels

Back to the origins, the facts and we are treated to a fascinating journey into murders by arsenic poisoning in Bude, Cornwall, beginning with that of Alice Thomas, a protracted poisoning from 18 October 1930 to her eventual demise on 4 November 1930. It was at the point of the coroners report and at the funeral that Annie Hearn confided to her friend Mrs Spear that she was under suspicion, but no such thing was officially recorded at that point. So why would she claim this to be the case? Why would she conduct such a crime?

Annie Hearn proceeded to fake her own unaliving to escape investigation. However, When Alice's post mortem returned a cause of death as arsenic poisoning, it was ordered that the bodies of both Annies Sister and Aunt were to be exhumed and tested, again, it was found they had been involuntarily unalived through arsenic poisoning

However, despite all of the evidence put before the judge, Annie Hearn was released due to lack of eveidnce, the evidence available being labelled as circumstantial at best.

Were there just three vistims or more? This book delves deep into the avaiolable evidence, the history of Annie Hearn and the investigation of the case. The book is highly detailed and extensively researched, written almost in the form of a police investigation and as such, very easy to follow. A perfect account for lovers of True Crime and Mysteries both factual and fictional

NetGalley, Ink Reads

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

✨ Synopsis:

Three companions gathered for tea in the small town of Bude, Cornwall. After one died via arsenic poisoning, suspicions began surfacing regarding Annie Hearn, one of the remaining three, for some other deaths. Pinning responsibility for those murders on Annie Hearn proved difficult.

✨My thoughts:

The numerous details gathered for this non-fiction book was most impressive, considering the lies Annie told, such as when she was born, that she was married, her name, and so much more. Furthermore, even though I had no doubt regarding Annie Hearn’s guilt, after finishing the true crime book, i have been left with the sense that I can’t be entirely certain about so much. Moreover, this is a case of how to get away with murder.

NetGalley, Lily Chang

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed how good this was, it was interesting to read the events that inspired Agatha Christie. It does a great job in bringing this event to life. It had that mystery element that I was looking for and thought it had a suspenseful feel that I wanted. I could see why Agatha Christie was inspired by this. Jonathan Oates wrote this perfectly and I was glad I got to read this.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In 1930s Cornwall, an afternoon tea leads to a horrific case of arsenic poisoning. Survivor Annie Hearn vanishes, and the press exposes her disquieting past. This true-crime story is fascinating and intriguing, well-paced and easy to read.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book gives a thorough and insightful look at a fascinating case. I have read Agatha Christie’s fictional take, but am glad I was afforded the opportunity to read a true account.
Of course I think there would be a very different verdict if this was a contemporary crime.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

NetGalley, Karen Kenyon

About Dr Jonathan Oates

Dr Jonathan Oates is the Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, and he has written and lectured on the Jacobite rebellions and on aspects of the history of London, including its criminal past. His best-selling books on criminal history are John Christie of Rillington Place, John George Haigh, the Acid-Bath Murderer and London Serial Killers. He is also well known as an expert on family history and has written several introductory books on the subject including Tracing Your London Ancestors and Tracing Your Ancestors From 1066 to 1837.

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