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A poorly written attempt to reconstruct the trial of an English artist accused of murdering a prostitute in 1907. Emily Elizabeth Dimmock was a pretty, well-liked young prostitute who lived in Camden Town, Eng., and was trying to change her ways (by cohabiting respectably with a railroad cook named Bert) when she was found in bed with her throat slashed from ear to ear. Suspicion fell on Robert Wood, a 28-year. old Scottish artist and designer; he'd been seen with her in pubs, and had even jokingly sent her a postcard. Wood was finally charged with the crime and put on trial, where he became the first English defendant to take advantage of the newly passed Criminal Evidence Act and testify on his own behalf; that, and the antics of his brilliant, colorful barrister, Edward Marshall Hall, won him acquittal, although doubts remain as to his innocence. It is difficult to dredge up even these poor facts from Napley's stiff, convoluted prose--he's writing in the style of another century, and not doing it very well: ""Whether [Wood] went frequently or seldom, whether he went for the sexual or the social congress, whether he was actuated by sensuous or simply morbid interests was of no account."" Too, Napley feels compelled to ""reconstruct. . .meetings and events which, while unrecorded by the evidence, appear likely to have happened."" Thus we have London streets straight out of B-movies, and a good deal of below-stairs dialogue: ""All right! All right! I'm coming' Keep your 'air on."" To say the least, an unpropitious beginning to a proposed series on great murder trials of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's