An intriguing story told in the style of Thomas Hardy or George Eliot, if they traded in true crime.




The mystery of what happened in the summer of 1889 "beneath the skin of propriety and manners” at a British mansion.

In this true story that created headlines in both the U.K. and the United States, Colquhoun (Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing, 2011, etc.) fulsomely describes the privileged lives of Liverpool's high society in Victorian England and introduces the principals as less than virtuous: Florence Maybrick was "vain, impatient and tiresomely self-absorbed as a spoiled child,” and her wealthy husband, James, “turned out to be faithless and morose.” Yet with these flawed, mostly unsympathetic characters, the author tells an engrossing story. James habitually consumed nostrums and tinctures containing strychnine, hydrochloric acid and arsenic (not uncommon in the late 1880s) and regularly used arsenic as a "general prophylactic against disease.” However, when he died suspiciously two years after marrying Florence, the question became, did his wife, nearly 25 years his junior, poison him, or was his self-medication the cause? Colquhoun presents comprehensive—to a fault—accounts of all the legal proceedings using court transcriptions and newspaper accounts, and she devotes dozens of pages to courtroom testimony from doctors, nurses and coroners about the amount of arsenic they could only guess was in James’ body at the time of his death. (The two-page list of characters at the end should help readers who become confused.) Though Colquhoun focuses closely on her story, some readers, drawn into the narrative, may draw parallels from this “Maybrick mania” to the current coverage of sensational cases. Throughout the narrative, the author makes use of a variety of antiquated words and phrases, none more delightful than her description of the "tatterdemalion viragoes" outside the courthouse "hiss[ing] their opprobrium.”

An intriguing story told in the style of Thomas Hardy or George Eliot, if they traded in true crime.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1468309348

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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