The Poisonous Solicitor (Hardback)
The True Story of a 1920s Murder Mystery
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'METICULOUSLY RESEARCHED … A GLORIOUSLY ENGAGING ROMP' JANICE HALLETT, THE SUNDAY TIMES
'IMMERSIVE AND COMPELLING' DAVID KYNASTON
'A PAGE-TURNER' ROBERT LACEY
'CAREFUL AND COMPELLING' KATE MORGAN
'YOU WILL READ IT IN ONE SITTING' MARC MULHOLLAND
'A REAL-LIFE GOLDEN-AGE CRIME NOVEL' SEAN O'CONNOR
A brilliant narrative investigation into the 1920s case that inspired Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham.
On a bleak Tuesday morning in February 1921, 48-year-old Katharine Armstrong died in her bedroom on the first floor of an imposing Edwardian villa overlooking the rolling hills of the isolated borderlands between Wales and England.
Within fifteen months of such a sad domestic tragedy, her husband, Herbert Rowse Armstrong, would be arrested, tried and hanged for poisoning her with arsenic, the only solicitor ever to be executed in England.
Armstrong's story was retold again and again, decade after decade, in a thousand newspaper articles across the world, and may have also inspired the new breed of popular detective writers seeking to create a cunning criminal at the centre of their thrillers.
With all the ingredients of a classic murder mystery, the case is a near-perfect whodunnit. But who, in fact, did it? Was Armstrong really a murderer?
One hundred years after the execution, Agatha-Award shortlisted Stephen Bates examines and retells the story of the case, evoking the period and atmosphere of the early 1920s, and questioning the fatal judgement.
Stephen Bates read Modern History at New College, Oxford before working as a journalist for the BBC, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and, for 22 years, The Guardian, successively there as a political correspondent, European Affairs Editor in Brussels and religious and royal correspondent. A regular broadcaster, he has also written for the Spectator, New Statesman, Time magazine, Literary Review, Tablet and BBC History Magazine, Le Monde and Berliner Zeitung. He is married with three adult children and lives in Kent. This is his tenth book.
Meticulously researched … a gloriously engaging romp revolving around a knotty case that boasts all the ingredients a crime fiction fan could hope for.
Compelling … There will surely be more books on this fascinating case, but it'll be hard to beat this one
Immersive and compelling, The Poisonous Solicitor works at every level: as human drama, as an evocative slice of social and legal history, above all as a lucid and dispassionate presenting of the evidence about a century-old puzzle.
Stephen Bates puts us in the middle of an extraordinary trial for murder, when one life and many reputations were at stake. It was gripping then and fascinating now, with a shocking sting in the tale. You will read it in one sitting.
Marital disharmony, spare arsenic in the house, a premature death, the suspicions of nosey neighbours – all leading to the judge putting on the 'Black Cap'. Have you ever imagined you might find yourself sitting in judgement over a murder trial? Stephen Bates' gripping narrative takes you right inside one of the classic court cases of the 20th century. His page-turner lays out all the evidence for you to examine, so you feel you are actually up there on the bench – presiding over the dramatic trial of the only solicitor ever to be hanged in England. Guilty or innocent? You decide . . .
Part Agatha Christie, part social history, Stephen Bates has stripped one of the classic 20th-century murders of a hundred years of conjecture and supposition, revealing a dark and troubling parable of inter-war rural Britain, a suffocating world of professional rivalries, rigid social codes and deadly small-town gossip – where poisoned chocolates are delivered by first class post. Finding nuance and ambiguity in what has often been viewed as a black-and-white case,The Poisonous Solicitor is a real-life golden age crime novel with a tragic heart and an unexpectedly poignant denouement.
A careful and compelling reconstruction of one of the most infamous murder trials of the twentieth century. Stephen Bates excels at contrasting the claustrophobia of small-town life with the grisly details which make the story still so notorious, a century on.
A meticulously researched, gripping true crime book.