CROWN WITNESS by Gillian Linscott


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 It's only days before the coronation of King George V, and, in the celebratory atmosphere, London's sturdy suffragette Nell Bray (An Easy Day for a Lady, p. 30, etc.) is helping oversee a miles- long march of women for the cause. At procession's end are a horse and wagon manned by masked riders, one of whom is shot to death as Nell watches, horrified, with her nerdy acquaintance Simon Frater, who's promptly arrested for the murder while the wagon makes a fast getaway. Turns out it was packed with dynamite and headed for Scotland Yard. The dead man is Robert Withering, radical son of a cabinet minister. Nell's noisy protests of Simon's innocence land her in Holloway prison, a couple of cells from Violet White-- jailed, not for the first time, for soliciting. Violet attaches herself to Nell and, with a bribe to a warder, effects their escape. The two women, penniless, eventually find themselves in a shabby anarchist's commune headed by Russian ÇmigrÇe Sophia, a former princess now funding this bare-bones shelter for the politically incorrect. The wagon started from here, and Nell is soon aware that the place is a hornet's nest of backbiting and suspicion, really run by a much feared hard-liner named Glass. It takes a second escape, from what's essentially another prison, before Violet finds true love and Nell can confront the police with Withering's true killer. Much fussy detail and an overabundance of minor characters, but, still, it's fun--and, as always, the author provides a sharp take on the tenor of that time and place.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13456-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1995


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