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4.0 out of 5 starsinteresting true story
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2020
Interesting historical true crime story. Amazing how individuals with sociopathic personality disorders can influence the vulnerable people around them.
Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2016
I gave this an OK rating as it was an interesting book but not one that kept me rushing back to it. Perhaps it was because of the amount of time that has passed. Or perhaps the amount of superfluous information added. I generally felt the story could have been at least 100 pages shorter. The crime itself was no doubt sensational at the time but felt mundane to me. It appeared to be well researched and would have been better told in shorter form. The most interesting part was the court proceedings, noting the comparison to those of today.
I live within walking distance of the former site of the Chapmans' Girls School and All Saints Church where Dr Wm Chapman is buried, so I found this book particularly interesting. The author does a wonderful job telling a 200 year old story as if it happened yesterday. Maps and pictures are always a helpful tool in non-fiction, this book has neither. Although the author mistakenly locates All Saints Church in Hulmeville, PA ... when it clearly stands in Northeast Philadelphia on the edge of Bucks County, I give The Murder of Dr. Chapman 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 starsA Murderous Love Triangle in the New Republic
Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2004
There was a delicious scandal making the news in 1831, leading to a standing-room-only trial. Someone surely dubbed it the "trial of the century," as we do even now, with our own interest in contemporary murder and adultery. Then those involved died off, and the years dimmed even collective memories of the trials of Lucretia Chapman and her lover Lino Espos y Mina for the murder of her husband. A good story won't die, and a good story indeed is in _The Murder of Dr. Chapman_ (HarperCollins) by Linda Wolfe. Wolfe has written on true crimes before, but has previously concentrated on contemporary subjects. She has superbly given historical context for this story, however, and produced a satisfying work full of period detail and comparisons of those times and our own. Lucretia Winslow moved to Philadelphia in 1813. She was 25 years old, an age that marked her as liable to spinsterhood. She was tall and striking, and smart, and she moved to Philadelphia to accept a teaching position, one of the respectable ways unmarried women could make it in the world. Of course, she probably made the move to increase her marital prospects, too, and in 1818 she indeed married William Chapman. William was ten years older than Lucretia and several inches shorter. He was an accountant, but studied ways to cure stuttering. They may not have had a passionate marriage, but it began with respect and affection. The stolid William eventually ceased to satisfy her. Enter the third vertex of the triangle. Lino was 23 years old, a superb conman and criminal deported from Havana. He had bilked plenty of others before wandered to the Chapman's house, told a tale of how he had been robbed, and entranced both William and Lucretia, who decided that he should stay with them until his affairs were straight and his wealthy family started sending him money again. Within a month, Lino and Lucretia were lovers, and William was dead. It seemed that he had died of natural causes, food poisoning or cholera. Nine days later, Lino married Lucretia, who took a heartbreakingly long time eventually to realize she was being conned and stolen from. Eventually it became clear that Lino had bought arsenic days before William first turned ill. When he was arrested for William's death, so was she. Naturally, their trials form the climax of this riveting book. So, was it murder, and if so, who did it? It would be wrong to tell how the juries for their separate trials decided on the issue, even though there is a gallows and coffin on the cover of the book. Wolfe has recreated the trials in fascinating detail. The newspapers enjoyed scandal then and now, but scandals as domestic news were a zesty novelty. The papers called Lino "a villain of no ordinary character" and Lucretia "a woman of violent passions." Wolfe herself concludes that probably Lucretia did not take part in her husband's murder, but that "probably" is going to have to be judged by every reader. It is an assignment that no one interested in thrilling true-crime narratives will want to pass up.