Real life crime stories from the past have always grabbed our attention – from Jack the Ripper onwards, we have eagerly read accounts of such crimes (whether factual or fictionalised versions) or watched programmes about them on television. The latest true crime to hit our screens is Alias Grace, itself an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novelisation of a Victorian murder case.
Atwood’s 1996 novel takes as its inspiration a murder that occurred in her native Canada back in 1843. Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, were murdered, and two of Kinnear’s servants – Grace Marks and James McDermott – were charged and convicted. Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment, but McDermott was not so fortunate, and was hanged. The novel, which starts in 1859, sees Grace being sent from prison to work as the penitentiary governor’s servant; as she is believed to be suffering from hysteria, a doctor, Simon Jordan, is brought in to assess her…
The six- episode mini-series of Alias Grace starts on Netflix on 3 November. If your interest in the case is piqued by the television version, you can also buy Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace in a new edition to tie-in with the series, for £8.99 (published by Virago). Susanna Moodie (1803– 1885) also wrote a history of the case, called Life in the Clearings Versus The Bush, which is available from Amazon.