MORRIS’ VICTORIAN, IRISH MURDER MYSTERY, STEAMS ONTO SHELVES IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

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Over the past year, two independently made tv documentaries have put the spotlight on the small West Cork village of Schull and has led to large numbers of viewers flocking there. The reason for the interest in this remote hamlet, is the unsolved murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in December 1996. In the interim, one man has become the prime suspect, but never been charged or convicted in Ireland. In France, Ian Bailey was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 25 years in prison. There are similarities to this case and the subject of this month’s second Book Review, the book is the Dublin Railway Murder by Thomas Morris and published by Vintage ( www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/vintage.html ) on the 11th November.

Dublin 1856, the Chief Cashier of the Midlands Great Western Railway, Mr George Little. Was discovered dead with his throat cut in his office, which was locked from the inside, at the Broadstone Terminus. No murder weapon was found and thousands of pounds in gold and silver are left lying on his desk. Irelands most experienced detective and Dublin’s leading lawyer team up the investigate the murder. But the mystery defies all explanation and even baffles two of Scotland Yard’s top sleuths. With the days and months dragging on and five suspects arrested and released, along with every twist and turn of the case followed by the press, a local woman suddenly comes forward claiming to know the killer… Is she telling the truth, or is it just another dead end? Also, can a Phrenologist from England also prove that he can tell if a person is a murderer or not by measuring their head, if so, is the new suspect capable of committing such a deed?

I live just south of Dublin in the coastal town of Bray, and was in the city last week when I had to go to the leafy southside suburb of Ballsbridge for a work event. As for being anywhere near the north inner city, it’s been well over two years or more. The Broadstone terminus is now a large Dublin Bus depot, with a Dublin Light Rail (LUAS) stop adjoining it too.  It recently underwent a major multimillion-euro restoration project of the old station building. I’ve never had any need to use it or visit the site or was I aware of an unsolved murder there.

Click the link to take a virtual tour of the refurbished station and The murder scene (KBC / Journal.ie) http://www.thejournal.ie/broadstone-station-vr-tour-3836271-Feb2018

The book is an amazing historical read, which leads the reader through every facet of the investigation and its aftermath. I was enthralled by the historical detail Morris potrayed about Dublin, Ireland, and its citizens, as well as the famous literary connectiuons to the case, like Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde. While reliving how basic murder investigations were back then. Especially considering how easily crime solving is portrayed in books and on the large and small screens these days, with the aid of computers and Forensics.

Back then, for example, the coroner wasn’t a medical man, just someone from the political elite who had friends in high places. Then there’s the strange interpretations of the law, like for example a wife not being able to give evidence against her husband. While forensically, the crime scene is all but rendered useless by hordes of curious onlookers and members of staff of the building entering the office to gawp at the sight of a dead man, let alone mentioning that the body is searched by members of the management of the company before any member of the police force arrives on the scene. This all comes across as very chaotic, but it is of its time and thank God things have moved on.

Broadstone station building (The Irish Times)

This isn’t my first time reading a book detailing the investigation of a real-life murder in Victorian England or Ireland. I’ve previously read the Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscales, Whicher was actually one of the two detectives sent across by Scotland Yard, although the celebrated detective remained very much under the radar and returned home baffled by the case after a fornight. On top of that I’ve also read Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait of a Killer, one of many books written about Jack The Ripper. Here we realise very quickly the haphazard way things were done, even down to the anti-Semitic accusations bandied about by the public and press.

Meanwhile, if you are one who loves James Patterson’s style of serving up chapters a single page long, then you are in for a let-down, so meaty and in-depth is Morris’ research and attention to detail, they are on average twenty plus pages in length. Each one ends on a teasing and page turning high point, meaning that this could lead to a few late nights. Who needs Netflix when you can binge your way through the salacious details of a murder mystery that makes this book a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read? So delighted was I with this book, that had it arrived a couple of weeks earlier, I’d have presented it to my book group as my December choice. I suppose there’s always next year,

Thomas Morris

This is English author and historian Thomas Morris’ ( www.thomas-morris.uk )  third book, his others are The Matter Of The Heart (2017) and The Mystery Of The Exploding Teeth (2018). Before becoming a write he was a BBC Radio Producer for 18years and his freelance journalism has appeared in The Times, The Lancet and TLS. He also has a blog is subtitled “Making You Grateful for Modern Medicine”, he currently lives in London.

So, if you are interested in Irish history, or like me a local resident fascinated to learn about the capital city’s dark past, then this enthralling and highly addictive book is a must for you, or an excellent Christmas present for friends or family at home or abroad.

Reviewed by   Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

DARK HUMOUR AND FORENSIC INSIGHTS GIVE DAYNES A HEADSTART IN A CROWDED FIELD

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Darkside of mnd cvrThere’s a great public interest currently, in true crime and in the psychology of the serial killer, with a proliferation in TV programmes such as Mindhunter, the Smiley Face killers, Catching a killer and podcasts like Serial. Sky have recently launched a True Crime specific channel so they must anticipate this is a fascination that’s not going to go away anytime soon. There’s also a greater awareness of mental health issues. This was highlighted at my workplace recently and in a series of posters, my favourite was a thought provoking straight line with a line intersecting it about a quarter of the way long. It read ‘people’s lives’ along the whole line and ‘what you know about them ‘ along the quarter section.

So, it’s was an ideal time when this months second book review dropped through the letter box.  It’s The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes published  by Endeavour, an imprint of Octopus ( http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk ), on the 20th February.

The book is a collection of true stories from Kerry Daynes’ life as a forensic psychologist. Her job is to delve into the minds of convicted men and women to understand what lies behind their actions. The world of the forensic psychologist can be highly unpredictable- the people you meet are rarely as they first appear. Kerry Daynes has seen it all. Her work has taken her from police interview rooms and the witness box to the cells of maximum-security prisons and the wards of secure hospital. In this memoir she gives us an unforgettable insight into the darker side of the mind.

This was a really interesting and thought provoking read. Kerry Daynes takes us through the story of her professional career in steps with dark humour and a certain amount of introspection. You feel like this was a learning experience for her as much as for the reader. Each chapter focuses on the case of one individual, as well as changes in Kerry’s career path and methodology. She explores the  psychological reasons behind a patient’s actions, with sensitivity and considered reflection regarding her own responses and treatment methods, as well as exposing outdated practices, lazy thinking, the results of cost cutting in mental health services and well-intentioned if unhelpful, one size fits all programmes  in the health and penal service.

There was no showboating here. This was not a bid for fame but a humanizing of those as we think of as ‘other’ than the rest of us ‘normal’ people and explanations of how treatments are developed. We learnt about her own difficulties with a stalker , stress related health issues and feelings of being burnt out when involved in assessing paedophile activities as part of Operation Yewtree, the investigation into child abuse by Jimmy Saville and other TV personalities. This then peaked when she was asked the make an assessment of Mark Bridger, the Welshman who murdered April Jones. Not able to suppress feelings of anger and revulsion for this man , Kerry moved away from criminal forensic psychology for her own mental health and this admission in the book makes her seem more normal , decent and likable than any protestations professional detachment could have done.

I loved the humour in the book. Being from the north midlands of England myself, it made her very real to me as a person. Vets and doctors use a black sense of humour to help them survive the stresses and depressing moments of they work and to me. We also talk about wildly inappropriate things over dinner.

Kerry Daynes

Kerry Daynes (Cheshire Life)

This is English author Kerry Daynes’s ( http://www.kerrydaynes.online )  first book, she has over twenty years experience in the field of Psychology and is the person TV networks and news outlets turn to for expert commentary. Recently she helped SKY TV launch their Crime channel in late 2019 and is the “Profiler” in the award winning ‘Faking It’ series on Quest Red. As well as that Daynes’s speaks as an advocate for better conversations around crime, justice and mental health. She is patron of the National Centre for Domestic Violence and as a victim of stalking herself, acts as a spokeswoman for the Suzy Lampugh Trust’s stalking related campaigns.

This is not a read for those looking for gory details or rubber necking style voyeurism but an insightful and engaging foray into the minds of criminals and how they are not so different from us. Take my advice and get down to your bookshop or download a copy to get your brain whirring .

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you though, we’d love the feed back.

 

Dark Side of the Mind BT Poster