The Battered Body Beneath the Flagstones, and Other Victorian Scandals

Narrated by: Anne Dover
Length: 10 hrs and 31 mins
4 out of 5 stars (143 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A grisly book dedicated to the crimes, perversions and outrages of Victorian England, covering high-profile offences - such as the murder of actor William Terriss, whose stabbing at the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre in 1897 filled the front pages for many weeks - as well as lesser-known transgressions that scandalised the Victorian era. 

The tales include murders and violent crimes but also feature scandals that merely amused the Victorians. These include the story of a teenage man who married an actress, only to be shipped off to Australia by his disgusted parents; and the Italian ice-cream man who meant only to buy his sweetheart a hat but ended up proposing marriage instead. When he broke it off, his fiancée's father sued him, and the story was dubbed the 'Amusing Aberdeen Breach of Promise Case'. Also present is the gruesome story of the murder of Patrick O Connor, who was shot in the head and buried under the kitchen flagstones by his lover, Maria Manning, and her husband, Frederick. The couple's subsequent trial caused a sensation, and even author Charles Dickens attended the grisly public hanging. 

Drawing on a range of sources from university records and Old Bailey transcripts to national and regional newspaper archives, Michelle Morgan's research sheds new light on well-known stories as well as unearthing previously unknown incidents. 

©2018 Michelle Morgan (P)2018 Little, Brown Book Group

What listeners say about The Battered Body Beneath the Flagstones, and Other Victorian Scandals

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Doesn’t question it’s sources enough

On the surface, this is a delightful collection of pearl-clutching Victorian scandals, which titillate today just as they did over 100 years ago. The author writes in a way that mimics, to a degree, the breathlessness of Victorian scandal journalism, including the language that often condemned victims of domestic abuse as the authors of their own destruction. Story after story describe female homicide victims as having been promiscuous, or nags, or possibly insane, based (apparently) on the surviving testimony of their murderers (most often their husbands, boyfriends, or former such).

It ended up becoming rather tedious to listen to tale after tale of women horribly abused, presented in gossip magazine style, with little to no analysis of what any of it meant to contemporaries, nor what it means today.

On their own, each tale could easily be a bit of ghoulish fun, being so far removed from our own time. So perhaps reading a chapter here and a chapter there would be a good way to experience this book, but I can't really recommend listening to it cover to cover, as I did.

12 people found this helpful

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Delicious scandals, and murder most foul...

I have always been a fan of history and historical biographies, and ever since Stephen Fry's wonderful 'Stephen Fry' s Victorian Secrets' was offered as one of the Audible Originals selections, I have been on the look out for something similar.
This was that, and SO. MUCH. MORE.
I will summarize what I deem as some of the best features of this audio book, as I will be here all night and wear out my fingers typing if I listed everything I adore about this book.
Starting with the narration, (which was stellar) I was very pleased right away with the narrator's voice, and measured, dignified way of speaking. She does many many different character voices, and even tries (and for the most part, succeeds) Welsh, Scottish and varied American accents. She speaks about the often disturbing subjects with obvious compassion for the victims in her voice, as well as dignity. Many narrators of so-called 'scandal' collections tend to a sly, voyeuristic tone, which lends an attitude of gawking at a nasty accident. Not so here. She is also excels at pronunciation, I only heard one mispronounced word, which was a proper name anyway, so I didn't hold it against her (the word was ' Decatur', the name of a town in the US).
The selection of stories is well chosen (I am very much into this period of history, as well as famous scandals of yesteryear, and I had only ever heard ONE of the well over 40 stories, that of the man who attempted the assassination of Queen Victoria, Edward Oxford) and though on the obscure side, this is to the books advantage, as I am positive most people will not have read about these cases before.
The cases are detailed but not overly wordy, nor does the author linger over the gorier, nastier aspects any more than is absolutely necessary for conveying the details needed to understand what happened. The cases/stories are also separated into loosely themed categories, which helps the stories flow from one to the next very smoothly.
The stories themselves? Absolutely fascinating! Riveting! Even better than fiction because they actually HAPPENED, fantastic though the details are. A good selection of locations, too, from the US to the UK and Europe.
In summary, I cannot praise this book enough. I snagged it during the mother's day sale but would have been just as happy if I'd either paid full price or paid with a credit.
This is a DEFINITE re-read (re-listen?). 5 stars all around

5 people found this helpful

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Interesting

As an all history buff I found it very interesting. These storied accounts are sometimes humorous sometimes disturbing, but always interesting.

1 person found this helpful

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Sensational

Expertly read and a fascinating collection of crimes. I can highly recommend this book

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Mostly murdered women

What I was hoping for was something that covered a variety of scandals and some of the infamous and sensational characters from the Victorian era: Jack the Ripper (he is mentioned in a short chapter about a supposed close call almost victim), Oscar Wilde, Anne Lister, HH Holmes, or even the trial of Fanny and Stella and their contemporaries but it was not meant to be. The bulk of the stories are about men murdering the women who reject them. The frequency of that trope quickly became grating. I would have enjoyed the book far more if the “scandals” weren’t just about murders and included some social or sex scandals since there were plenty of those in the Victorian Era too.

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Boring!

Stories range from very long to very short. Mostly uninteresting and mediocre. Only if you have a tremendous interest in the Victorian Era and crime.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Simon Hodding
  • 05-16-18

Excellent storyline

Absolutely loved this audio book
Great little stories with great detail to events
The storytelling is fantastic
I can't recommend this book highly enough
BRILLIANT

9 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs Trellis
  • 08-22-18

Oh god the accents

The stories are great but this narrator should leave the accents alone. In one of the stories based in Scotland the characters vary from Irish to Cornish to Scouser to Scots in the space of a couple of sentences. It’s painful and ruined the book for me.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Squeaky Joe
  • 09-15-18

A fascinating collection of gory stories

Aside from Jack the Ripper, grisly murders don’t usually spring to mind when we think of the Victorian era, but hundreds of downright horrible crimes regularly hit the headlines at the time. While most of these have sunk without trace, Michelle Morgan has delved into dozens of long-forgotten murders, mysteries, kidnappings, disappearances and good-old-fashioned sex-scandals to paint an enthralling picture of crime in the days of old Queen Vicky.

As well as a whole bunch of murders and throat-slashing jilted lovers, there are a surprising number of accounts centred on that well-known source of killers - the stage actor. One of the most intriguing is the story of popular thespian William Terriss and his (somewhat unhinged) fellow actor Richard Prince, who stabbed the former to death at the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre.

The inclination of a lot of killers to cut their victim’s throats left me feeling a bit woozy at times, and the sheer number of people who inflicted horrifying pain upon their victims (who, shortly before, they had intended marrying) is mind-boggling. It certainly puts twenty-first century domestic abuse statistics into perspective.

I did occasionally feel the text might have benefited from another good edit, but otherwise Ms Morgan tells a good tale. All in all, a fascinating collection of gory stories (and I do mean gory!)

2 people found this helpful

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  • Julieb
  • 09-02-18

interesting new tales.

very good. lots of stories I had not heard before. very good entertainment. liked the narration too.

1 person found this helpful

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  • N. Flynn
  • 05-11-18

Very average

It is quite interesting to read (hear?) about the stories of a (fervently hoped) bygone age.
However given that the premise of the book - judging by the title - is that these stories would be some of the better known 'scandals' and it misses it's mark. A lot of the stories described are not what could be described as 'scandalous' - merely very sad, and in a lot of cases, reflective of a much more uncaring and brutal era. In the worst cases the 'story' isn't really worth inclusion - just seemingly filler fluff.
The real take-away (hateful phrase!) is that unless you were from a 'good' family, well connected or wealthy, God help you if had *any* brushes with authority. The laws, and their practice, were used to decidedly keep you in your place - definitely one law for the rich and another for the poor (a particular example would be the case of Contance Kent& Jack Whicher).
The reader is not bad, but please stop trying to do accents unless you are a really good actor - it's jarring and off-putting and not done well.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Fiona D.
  • 08-09-20

Great listen

Clear, steady narration throughout a collection of eye-opening short crime stories. Strange, grusome, funny, enlightening.

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  • Portobello Rockefeller
  • 08-03-20

Bite-sized Curious Stories from the Victorian Era

This is a collection of real life stories of scandals and curious tales during the Victorian era. The tales themselves range from interesting to forgettable, but they are well paced and largely short, makig picking up and putting down this audiobook easy.

The narration is somewhat BBC Radio 4 style, which will appeal to some, but not to others. Some of the accents are shocking which unfortunatley detracts from the overall stories.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Hana
  • 07-17-20

Started with promise

This book started off well but towards the end I found some of the cases covered to be outside the scope of the Victorian Era and lacking the necessary detail to enjoy.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-03-20

Very interesting

Good mix of very short and slightly longer retellings of past crimes and mysteries. By the use of press and court information given as the events unfolded, the listener is given the intrigue that victorians would have experienced themselves at the time.

Before purchasing I read a review stating how annoying they found the terrible accents. Thanks to this warning, although the accents were terrible, I found it really amusing rather than annoying. It actually added to my enjoyment of this audiobook!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-24-20

Unendingly tedious accounts

of terribly terribly boring events. started out relatively well and then became a long slog of uneventful histories of not particularly interesting people or events.

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  • Jen
  • 10-07-18

It was ok

This isn't a terrible book, it's just a bit blah.

It's written in the style where every chapter is a mini-story, so it reads like a collection of newspaper articles.Just telling the facts and fleshing out a few characters but no real depth or insight. Definitely doesn't shed light on the Victorian era so the storied could have happened in any setting.

The reader does some really annoying character voices. Ewww..

I think I'd have really enjoyed this when I was about 14 and I was going through a ghoulish period - but the adult me finds it lacking in depth and insight.

For a book that focuses on a specific historical period, I expect some insight into that period.

1 person found this helpful