It is 1910 and Dr Hawley Crippen has been convicted of the murder of his wife Cora. In his cell at Pentonville Prison, Crippen faces the prospect of the gallows.
Laying bare his innermost feelings, he looks back at his austere childhood in Coldwater, Michigan, his tempestuous marriage and life on the run with his lover Ethel Le Neve. Yet as he revisits his life, Crippen entreats us to consider his "confession": I am not a murderer.
In Dancing for the Hangman, Martin Edwards reopens the file on one of the most notorious and fascinating cases in criminal history. Edwards blends imaginative insight with detailed and extensive research to bring to life the characters and events of a hundred years ago.
From the very beginning of the story, the ultimated demise of the main character, Dr Crippen, is clear. As the story progresses there is a certain morbid fascination, like watching a train wreck, in listening to the events unfold. While the plot was interesting, I did not have all that much sympathy for Dr Crippen, who seemed to make some dubious decisions, especially when it came to women and business.
The ending would also have been more suspenseful if his the ultimate fate was not already made clear to the listener.
I found the narrator's cadence a bit monotonous, but the voices were good. There was also an underlying current of dark humour that added to the narrative, which is worth an extra half-star on top of the score I gave.
Brilliantly narrated you could almost be transported back in time watching this fascinating story unfold. The author explores all the known facts of the murder trial part fact and part fiction. It is skillfully written, compassionate and thought provoking. The narator brings the characters skillfully to life leaving the listener with a vivid picture of the life and death of Dr Hawley Crippen.
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