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The Peasenhall Murder (Paperback)

An Edwardian Mystery

P&S History > True Crime

By Neil R Norman
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 104
Illustrations: 15 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399064378
Published: 2nd May 2024

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In May 1902, a great storm hit the small village of Peasenhall, Suffolk. The following morning, the body of Rose Harsent was found in the house where she worked. Whilst originally believed by the doctor to have been suicide, her brutal injuries, alongside evidence of an attempted fire, told a different story.

When looking for a murderer, there were very few suspects, but as more details unfolded, the evidence started to point towards one William Gardiner. William was a respected figure in the community, with a loving family, a job as a foreman carpenter at the local Seed Drill Works, and several positions within the local church. However, the previous year, William had been involved in a scandal that suggested an affair between him and Rose; one that had brought an inquest into the matter and could not be forgotten in such a small village. This made him a person of interest for the police, and when a medicine bottle filled with paraffin was found near her body with the Gardiner family name on it, alongside letters from him amongst Rose's things, it comes as no surprise he was arrested for her murder. Rose was also pregnant at the time of her death; was this the motive?

The Peasenhall Murder explores the crime in great detail, from the original scandal through to the aftermath of the trial. It's the perfect read for lovers of true crime and a murder mystery, and those with an interest in Edwardian England.

Would absolutely recommend this to anyone who is a true crime enthusiast.

NetGalley, Susan Belman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a well-researched read. The facts of the case are logically laid out amidst glimpses of local village color at the time of the relevant incidents. I agree with the author's conclusion and look forward to reading more true crime titles he may publish.

NetGalley, Tammi Mossman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I had never heard of this true crime case before and was glad I was able to read about this. Neil R Norman does a great job in writing this and presenting the case and what could have happened.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Perfect Read for Lovers of True Crime.
The Peasenhall Murder is a professionally written book by Neil R. Norman and the book explores the crime in detail, from the original scandal through to the aftermath of the trial.
In May 1902, there was a great storm that hit the small village of Peasenhall, Suffolk. The following morning, the body of Rose Harsent was found in the house where she worked. Whilst originally believed by the doctor to have been suicide, her brutal injuries, alongside evidence of an attempted fire, told a different story.
When looking for a murderer, there were very few suspects, but as more details unfolded in this book the evidence started to point towards one William Gardner William had been involved in a scandal that suggested an affair between him and Rose. So, when Rose was also found dead and pregnant William Gardner was arrested charged with her murder and sent to trial. William was a pillar of the community, and he was married with six children.
This book is the perfect read for lovers of true crime and a murder mystery. Yet the police never got their man. Or did they? When it comes to the Peasenhall Murder there are still more questions than answers, even after over 100 years. A fascinating read and a crime that I had never come across before.

NetGalley, Kathleen RIGGS

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Peasenhall Murder - An Edwardian Mystery by Neil R Norman is an account of gossip, closing ranks, incompetence and not one, not two but three trials with a twist in the tale to equal a corkscrew

Note - Oh Dr Lay, Dr Lay, Dr Lay. Seriously? (This will become most apparent when you read the book!)

The investigation follows the life of Mr William Gardiner, borne of the workhouse and risen to a prostigious position in the village community through hard work and a "pious" nature. A highly respected member of the community until one fateful night, when two villagers, Skinner and Wright, at a loose end, suspected something amiss and spied on Mr Gardiner and a young maid, Rose Harsent, having a tumble in the Chapel *gasp!* Such behaviour was certainly not befitting of a pious man and as such, the pair made their discovery public

It was at this point that the gaslighter of all gaslighters made himself apparent and Mr Gardiner sent a letter to Rose, advising her of the scandal that had been "alleged" and that he would take action to clear his name and extract an apology from Skinner and Wright (which needless to say, did NOT go well as detailed in his second letter)

However, the one person who was affected most by this entire debacle, was dear Rose, who, after a severe storm, was discovered by her father, most unalive and even he coul tell foul play was the cause (Seriously, I say again, Dr Lay? Really? I know it was 1902 but how on earth? I mean? Wha?)

The murder resulted in three trials and a final verdict that will blow your mind

This is a short read but incredibly interesting and at times comical in the conduct of the participants. Neil R Norman has written a highly entertaining yet factual and authentic account. A fantastic read

NetGalley, Ink Reads

About Neil R Norman

Neil R. Norman was born in 1972 in Ipswich, Suffolk, where he grew up with a fascination and passion for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes mysteries. This is where the seeds were sown for him to undertake the solving of crimes from the Victorian and Edwardian periods.


With an enthusiasm for solving cases that have laid buried within police vaults for over a century, he has turned his hand to modern day sleuthing, using twenty-first century methods to investigate the interesting and now largely forgotten true crime cases in Britain's history.

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