A grisly murder in an England on the cusp of the Victorian era sets the scene for this thriller.
In 1837, a series of discoveries of scattered body parts led to a sensational trial known as the “Edgeware Road Murder.” The novel follows the true case of Sarah Gale, convicted of "aiding and abetting" that murder by helping her lover try to cover it up. Debut author Mazzola displays her research chops with epigraphs at the heads of several chapters quoting genuine newspaper accounts from the time or actual excerpts from the trial. Mazzola has invented a sympathetic investigator to explore what might have happened: the fictitious Edmund Fleetwood, a young solicitor, is hired by the Home Office to reinvestigate the case in order to determine whether there are circumstances which would convince a judge to spare Sarah from the gallows. Both the convicted murderer, James Greenacre, and Sarah herself denied at trial that she had any part in the whole affair. Though she professes innocence, Sarah has failed to offer any further explanation or defense. Sarah is maddeningly passive but truly suffering from her secrets, which Edmund is determined to expose. He coaxes out the story of her genteel upbringing, which ended with the sudden plunge into poverty which led her on the road to misadventure. Edmund also struggles with finances and the weight of his more successful, overbearing father, who is unforgiving of any woman gone astray, including Edmund’s own mother. No merrie olde England this, but a dirty, hardscrabble London in which even the clergy offer no mercy. Sarah’s misery in Newgate Prison is particularly cruel and harrowing. As Edmund’s doggedness eventually prevails, a number of plot points which seemed like loose threads are cleverly woven into a satisfying resolution.
Haunting characters propel this well-paced story of true crime and imperfect punishment.