Despite the occasional slow spots, Colquhoun successfully balances suspense with historical accuracy.




Account of the first Victorian railway murder in Britain, and how the broader historical events surrounding the crime shaped the hunt for a killer.

Colquhoun (The Thrifty Cookbook, 2011, etc.) examines the murder of Thomas Briggs in July 1864 as he was traveling on the North London railway. Violently attacked, Briggs was discovered near death on the train tracks, his compartment soaked in blood. The evidence was slim; only a bloodstained hat and a broken watch chain found in the compartment provided any clues for the investigation into the killer. Colquhoun’s narrative takes readers from London to New York City and then back again as the police race to identify Briggs’ murderer and bring him to justice. The author’s suspenseful writing style and clear prose make the tale easy to read, but occasionally the story can become dry due to the amount of information packed into the book. Colquhoun includes quotes from the historical record and seamlessly weaves them into her story, but at times these details can become overwhelming—e.g., the author’s account of the extradition hearing is unnecessarily long. However, Colquhoun expertly places the murder within the larger context of British, Continental European and American history. The book ends with a look at the changes wrought by Briggs’ killing and the ensuing trial.

Despite the occasional slow spots, Colquhoun successfully balances suspense with historical accuracy.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59020-675-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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