MRS HOLMES:

MUR­DER, KID­NAP AND THE TRUE STORY OF AN EX­TRA­OR­DI­NARY LADY DE­TEC­TIVE

Real Crime - - Home Invasion - Nell Darby

GRACE VER­SUS THE UN­DER­WORLD RE­LEASED OUT NOW AUTHOR BRAD RICCA PUB­LISHER AMBERLEY AVAIL­ABLE IN PA­PER­BACK

One af­ter­noon in Fe­bru­ary 1917, as Eu­rope was fight­ing and cold weather was blan­ket­ing the east coast of the USA, 18- year- old Ruth Cruger went out to col­lect her ice skates from a lo­cal shop, hav­ing taken them to get the blades sharp­ened, and was never seen alive again.

The case of Ruth Cruger forms the crux of Brad Ricca’s book, which os­ten­si­bly tells the story of lawyer Grace Hu­mis­ton – or ‘ Mrs Sher­lock Holmes’ as the press re­ferred to her – but it also presents a prob­lem for the reader. Grace was un­doubt­edly an un­usual woman, spend­ing a large part of her life fight­ing on be­half of those ne­glected by the US le­gal sys­tem: im­mi­grants, the poor, and the fam­i­lies of miss­ing young women. Yet it is the case of Ruth Cruger, and how it was solved with the help of Grace, that is the most in­ter­est­ing part of the book, and one can’t help wish­ing it was sim­ply about that.

In­stead, Ricca uses dif­fer­ent tech­niques to try and pad Grace’s story out, and it gives the sense that he was left frus­trated by gaps in her story and the archival record, yet he also gets some­what bogged down in what ev­i­dence there is. The first part moves back­wards and for­wards in time to try and show Grace’s ca­reer de­vel­op­ing from her time at New York Univer­sity on­wards, but af­ter Ruth’s dis­ap­pear­ance, it takes on a more straight­for­ward nar­ra­tive. There are also a few mis­takes made in the writ­ing – such as with the time that Ruth Cruger may have died ( on page 249, he writes, “Ruth’s watch had stopped at 2.10pm” but then, on page 262, “Her watch had stopped at 2.30pm”).

He also con­cen­trates on Grace’s pro­fes­sional life, her fam­ily back­ground only be­ing de­tailed for the first time, fairly briefly, on page 254, and then again in the epi­logue, where Ricca does a quick syn­op­sis of each “char­ac­ter’s” life sub­se­quent to the Cruger case. There is a brief tale in­volv­ing Grace’s sib­lings, which could have been made more of, as they sound in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters them­selves. Over­all, though, there is lit­tle at­tempt made to un­der­stand what made Grace Hu­mis­ton tick, and she re­mains rather two- di­men­sional as a re­sult.

IF YOU LIKE THIS TRY...Rex v Edith Thomp­sonLaura Thomp­son For a les­son in how to write cre­atively about a real- life case, try this ac­count of the 1922 mur­der of Percy Thomp­son.

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