My Review (5 stars out of 5)
Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen and his wife, Belle, lived in a rented house at 39 Hilldrop Crescent. Following supper with two of their friends, Crippen appears to have poisoned his wife and cut up her body, burying her under the cellar floor. Moving his mistress, Ethel le Neve, into the house, he also gave Ethel some of Belle’s jewellery and clothes. But when police became suspicious, the pair fled Britain in disguise, until arrested and brought to trial.
David James Smith presents a well-researched and fascinating account of the events leading up to the trial, as well as creating a picture of Edwardian Britain that brings the story to life in great detail. I had read a book about the case many years ago, but this author highlights information that has only come to light recently, leaving no doubt that, despite the Doctor’s mild-mannered appearance, it’s likely he did kill his wife for the love of another woman.
However, there are questions the author doesn’t answer, such as, was the body under the cellar really that of Belle Elmore? To what extent did Ethel know about her lover’s plans, and why did Inspector Dew resign from the police force immediately following Crippen’s unsuccessful appeal? The answers may not be known and even if they were, might not make any difference to the conclusion, but the fact Crippen never admitted to the murder is a little troubling.
An engaging and thought-provoking book.