Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes

The Murder of Harriet Monckton
By Elizabeth Haynes
Published by Myriad Editions (27 September 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher


Publisher's description
On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, is found murdered in the privy behind the chapel she regularly attended in Bromley, Kent.
The community is appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the surgeon reports that Harriet was around six months pregnant.
Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, Elizabeth Haynes builds a compelling picture of Harriet’s final hours through the eyes of those closest to her and the last people to see her alive. Her fellow teacher and companion, her would-be fiancé, her seducer, her former lover—all are suspects; each has a reason to want her dead.

My verdict
The Murder of Harriet Monckton is exquisite - a haunting and compelling historical whodunnit. It's based on a Victorian crime, using original research materials to explore what happened to a young woman, Harriet Monckton, who was murdered with her unborn son.

Reading this book felt like reading the script of an Agatha Christie movie. The chapters switch from one character to the next and then back again, building up their layers, turning them into well-rounded and very real individuals. Elizabeth Haynes brings each character to life - Harriet's friends, family and other locals - exploring their possible motives, all being potential suspects with something to hide.

I loved the format of the book, with each character telling their own part of the story as if they were on centre stage, creating a vivid picture of Harriet's last living moments. When I heard Harriet's own voice, I could feel the swell of emotions as finally Harriet had her say.

The Murder of Harriet Monckton is more than just a true crime murder mystery. It's a 'me too' story of the 1840s, a disturbing insight into the social expectations, naivety of young women and the importance of religion within communities. The story felt authentic from start to finish, thanks to meticulous research providing specific details in the descriptions of the characters, setting and social interactions of that era.

I didn't want this book to end - and was sorry to finally let go. It feels like a suitable memorial to a young woman and her unborn child - gone but, thanks to Elizabeth Haynes, certainly not forgotten.

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