©2009 James Ruddick; (P)2009 Oakhill Publishing Ltd
The underlying story behind Death at the Priory has everything that a good mystery needs -- sex, love, and murder. The first part of this book definitely draws you in. However, toward the middle to end, the focus shifts from the story of the murder to a first person account of the author's investigation and details about how he ultimately "solved" the murder! It ruined the whole book for me, and the author comes off sounding quite pompous! It is as if the book is no longer about the intriguing murder, but suddenly about the author! Particularly if you are a fan of these sorts of books and may have listened to The Suspicions of Mr. Wicher first, this book will disappoint.
The story of this century-old unsolved murder serves a framework (jumping off point) for an examination of the status (or lack thereof) of British Victorian women, though members of that sex elsewhere weren't faring all that much better.
Ruddick has managed to put his extensive research together as an interesting conjecture as to how Charles Bravo met his end. I suspect the audio version might prove more interesting than the print book; the narrator conveys the author's enthusiasm well.
I had bought this title as a physical book years ago and had enjoyed it tremendously. I did not hesitate to purchase it again when I noticed it being available as an audio book here. I had the added pleasure this time to savor it on another level: Mr. Alistair Petrie's performance. It was a lovely experience and I will no doubt recommend it to others.
This story, about a murder that occurred in England more than 100 years ago, was well told and interesting. The author reviewed the case material from the original investigation and then looked for additional information related to the families involved and their descendants. The case had been investigated by Scotland Yard and written about by such crime-writing stars as Agatha Christie. James Ruddick presents a credible case for his "choice" of murderer.
I selected this title because my book club had decided to read it. I'm glad they did! As a lover of good detective fiction, this one met my expectations for being both a good story and a well-written narrative. And the bonus: it wasn't fiction!
The narrator did a fine job with the audio book.
I just loved this book. As with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, this true story (of the murder of a husband by his wife,) is set in late Victorian England. Although both books are very good reads, this is the better of the two. It's more succinct and to the point. The story is riveting and holds your attention. You feel you are right there with the principal players, especially Florence Bravo. It provides great insight into the social hierarchy, expectations surrounding marriage and the role and rights of women at the time. I have selected this book as the one for my next Bookclub, and it is one which women, in particular, will find most interesting.
"A really compelling listen"
This is a really interesting audiobook about a true life case of a Victorian poisoning. It's a classic "whodunnit", and the author clearly presents the evidence in an engaging way that leaves you guessing until the end. This is light enough not to require too much of your attention, but riveting enough to keep you listening until the end. A great listen for while you are driving around in the car - I kept finding excuses to put it on so that I could find out what happened! Highly recommended.
I listened to this in one sitting. It was fascinating. The reader is superb and the writing too! I urge you to try it if you enjoy a crime story.
"Suspicious Death Investigated"
This is an excellent book, which compares well with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, placing it in a similar social context, of police officers being unable to do their work fully because of power structures within society. It is, like Summerscale's text, about identified people, where there are very long standing repercussions across time and place, where effects are fully recognised. Murder is often trivialised: not in this book. It is read with careful tone, not dramatised, with attention to meaning, I really enjoyed this audio book, and can highly recommend it those interested in social history, as well as true crime accounts.
"Very Good Read"
I really enjoyed this a good story and good narration. Very often reviewing of "evidence" with true stories of this type both so long after the events and from a more current mindset I find myself thinking the analysis is not always explained very well and is often flawed in some way. James Ruddick does very well in explaining how he approaches his subject and does so from predominantly from his knowledge of attitudes of the time ... in other words from what what iknown then as opposed to what we know now. I liked that.
Alistair Petrie is very easy on the ear and I enjoyed his narration style nothing there to irritate a very picky listener :)
"Not quite sure why people are so in love with this"
The 'performance' was great. Didn't know about the events it is based on so enjoyed finding out about that. Gave me lots of opportunity to think and ask questions, which is always good, such as, "Why didn't he find out more about X?" "What about Y?" "What happened about Z?"
Probably not, unless he stops putting himself into the centre of everything and stops presenting the act of researching as more important than finding stuff out.
The bits where the story was actually elaborated, rather than him going, "And I have found stuff out no one knew about." (Which I'm not sure he did...)
Yes. But only if someone else wrote the screenplay. Would actually make a brilliant film.
I think the problem with this for me was I was expecting something between Serial and Did She Kill Him? from the write up and the rave reviews and I just got quite a boasty author saying, "I rejected the sources everyone else has relied on and went to the original sources," but then the sources he 'rejected' were those of the trial, which he actually used quite a lot, and the 'fresh sources' seemed to be great, great nieces being interviewed about what their great aunt said about...
He makes a big deal about having been an English Literature graduate (he came across this story while preparing 'seminar papers' but I think he just meant he was an undergraduate at York University and this sets the tone for his boastful pomposity) so I think historical research may be out of his realm. He is also not just a journalist, but a 'broadcast journalist'...
The most pointless bit was where he said he went to The Priory and spent ages on how he persuaded the current tenants to let him in (clever him), how one of them was having a shower (like, so what?), it was 'a dark and stormy night', and he spent wafty time on his impressions of the place (but failed quite to get over the layout) and then he measured the rooms.No idea why this latter action was important. Maybe I fell asleep and missed something but nothing about room measurements seemed to have anything to do with his quite obvious conclusions, both in terms of the crime and his 'take' on historical analysis of women in Victorian Britain. This 'analysis' is a tiny bit embarrassing since he seems to present his 'insights' here as some kind of additional 'revelation'. Perhaps his discoveries about the socio-economic position of women in Victorian society were for him but his surprise that women had limited property rights and lacked liberty with regards their sexuality might not be for others.
Anyway, do get this if you like real-life crime stuff, but don't get too excited and try to ignore all the bits where he bangs on about his research processes. No great revelations but the story is interesting in itself and probably deserves a better elucidation down the line.
I will listen to this again as it was so good. Well read, well written, well researched. An intriguing in site into Victorian life.
"A genuine Victorian mystery, solved?"
This book was recommended me, and I have recommended it to others. So If you love true crimes, but prefer them to come with some kind of solution. Or if you a fan of Sherlock Holmes style Victorian crime fiction, this is the book for you.
For me the best character was Mrs Cox, this pale, austere woman is beautiful described and has a real sense of menace. Could she have done? wouldn't we like to think so.
Alistair Petrie was perfectly pitched. You could almost imagine him as a barrister in a Victorian court house. He made the audio experience a real pleasure and really drew me in.
I didn't have much of an emotion response, frankly the victim had it coming. And I was willing to believe anyone of the suspects could have done it they were such a rum bunch. I had more of a academic response, I wanted to research the events further, to find other opinions and the outcomes of similar cases from the same era.
This story was intriguing, the characters came to life on the page. I felt like a juror at the trial. Was I convinced by the prosecutions argument? Yes, I believe I was. If you liked "The suspicions of Mr Whicher" by Kate Summerscale or "Mr Briggs' hat" by Kate Colquhoun you will love this audiobook.
"Classic Victorian whodunnit."
As good as the print version At the end of the day all audiobooks stand or fall on the performance of the narrator.This was very good.
The fact that this case has never been solved and never will be 100%,as all the people involved are long deceased and so you can draw your own conclusions.Women had so little freedom back then and a lot were trapped in cruel,loveless marriages.I cannot say i am surprised that so many reached for the poison bottle as a means of escape.
Yes very much.
The final moments of Charles Bravo,s life laying on his deathbed.You can almost feel the last vestiges of life leaving his agonised body.
How easy it was to obtain poisons in Victorian Britain and because detective work and forensics were in their infancy there was a high probability that the perpetrator would escape justice which in this era was the hangmans noose.
"Don't miss this fascinating true storey"
Of all the books I have listened to, this is, without doubt, one of the best. A true storey, excellently narrated by James Ruddick, who's voice has all the necessary levels and precise diction to hold your attention. The storey keeps you guessing until the very end. So good in fact, I will most probably listen again. Don't miss it.
Factual, historical, gripping and informative. I loved every minute of it. Beautifully read.
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