EXHUMATION OF A MURDER:  by Robin Odell

EXHUMATION OF A MURDER:

The Life and Trial of Major
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A straightforward, rather monotonous account of a classic English murder. The trial and execution of staid Major Herbert Rowse Armstrong created a media sensation 70 years ago, but Odell's re-creation of the events, while marked by distinguished writing and investigating, fails to convey much excitement. Major Armstrong, a Cambridge-educated lawyer and army officer, aspired to great things in his small English town--so when a younger, more successful lawyer appeared as competition, Armstrong attempted to murder the man by serving him arsenic-laced scones at tea. At his trial, it was ordered that Armstrong's recently deceased wife be exhumed from her grave under suspicion of poisoning; following the grisly post-mortem, reported in graphic detail here, Armstrong was convicted and hanged. Odell, author of Jack The Ripper: In Fact and Fiction (not reviewed), unravels the story like a Hitchcock yarn where horror is more frightening for its manifestation in the most normal of lives. But the case's distance in time and culture--1920's rural England--removes it from our sphere of experience and lessens its impact. (Joe McGinniss' Fatal Vision is a similar but better story for our time.) To Odell's credit, however, each of the peripheral characters is lavishly described; and the period photographs and news accounts included here lend the volume an antiquarian charm that might appeal to Anglophiles.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1989
ISBN: 312-02914-4
Publisher: St. Martin's
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