THE SEASIDE MURDERS: Thirteen Classic True Crime Stories by Jonathan--Ed. Goodman

THE SEASIDE MURDERS: Thirteen Classic True Crime Stories

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Goodman, the British author of The Killing of Julia Wallace (1977) and other solid-to-stylish true crime reconstructions, offers here a spotty gathering of murder-case reports--some recent, some from bygone volumes, all having a seaside town (all English except for one Scottish and one Irish) as the setting. Seedy, sad tales of egotistic bigamists and slimy con-men predominate, with encumbering wives the recurring victims. The longest of Goodman's own four contributions here, ""Also Known as Love,"" is a fair rehash of the very familiar ""Brides in the Bath"" case: multiple wife-killings circa 1915 (Herne Bay) by the indefatigable George Joseph Smith. Another well-known wife-murderer, John Bennett of the 1900 Yarmouth case, appears in a old-fashioned, chatty yet melodramatic version by Edgar Wallace. (Most readers would prefer Julian Symons' sharp reexamination in A Reasonable Doubt, 1960.) And the volume's standout, for detailed weighing of evidence, is an elegant dissection of the complicated case against wife-killer William Burke Kirwan (1852)--involving tides, timetables, and medical controversy--by the patriarch of true-crime reportage, William Roughead. The rest of the anthology is largely undistinguished filler: pathologist Hugh Johnson's brief recollections of a 1973 murder involving a band of Hell's Angels in Sussex; a tiny excerpt from Edward Marjoribanks' 1930 biography of barrister Sir Edward Marshall Hall; two anonymous (yet occasionally eloquent) entries from the Newgate Calendar. But H.M. Walbrook's 1922 tale of ""The Poisoned Chocolates"" (a madwoman at work in 1871 Brighton) is both ironically amusing and keenly disturbing (with echoes of the Tylenol tamperings). With extra appeal from some creepy old photos and a couple of welcome maps, this is a serviceable compilation for the casual true-crime readership.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Allison & Busby--dist. by Schocken