THE LADY IN THE CEL­LAR

Real Crime - - Home Invasion - A VERY VIC­TO­RIAN MUR­DER RE­LEASED OUT NOW AU­THOR SIN­CLAIR MCKAY PUB­LISHER WHITE LION PUB­LISH­ING AVAIL­ABLE IN HARD­BACK Nell Darby

She was an ec­cen­tric, rich old lady – one who at­tracted odd looks and even laugh­ter from strangers as she pa­raded around with her dyed ringlets and fancy cloth­ing deemed more ap­pro­pri­ate for a young woman than one in her 60s. How­ever, Matilda Hacker lit­tle de­served the mock­ery she re­ceived, but she cer­tainly didn’t de­serve the hor­rific death that was in­flicted on her in the au­tumn of 1877. For nearly two years, her body lay in the cel­lar of a Eus­ton Square board­ing house, de­com­pos­ing un­der a pile of rub­bish and coal, un­til it was even­tu­ally un­cov­ered, prompt­ing a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and a trial that had longterm reper­cus­sions for those in­volved.

Pro­lific au­thor Sin­clair McKay has a knack for un­cov­er­ing and writ­ing about on­ceno­to­ri­ous Vic­to­rian crimes, and this is cer­tainly a pe­cu­liar one – a tale that en­ables McKay to ex­plore is­sues around gen­der roles, at­ti­tudes to­wards sex and il­le­git­i­macy, the role of the press, and how men­tal health is­sues were treated in the era.

Alas, he seems de­ter­mined to make the case more ex­cit­ing: he tries to whip his read­ers into a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion about what might oc­cur next, only for the nar­ra­tive to fail to meet that ex­pec­ta­tion. His de­sire to ‘ solve’ the crime is also, ul­ti­mately, dis­ap­point­ing, due to his de­sire to paint in­di­vid­u­als in a dark light that they may well have lit­tle de­served – just as Matilda Hacker did not de­serve her vi­o­lent death. To use the ev­i­dence to sug­gest an in­di­vid­ual strug­gling with gen­der and class roles in Vic­to­rian so­ci­ety is one thing; to sug­gest they are ac­tu­ally so­cio­pathic in­stead seems a bit too much of a leap of imag­i­na­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.