After the massive headfuck that was Anathem, I thought I needed to read something grounded in reality. Aside from a textbook on PHP, The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath was the only non-fiction book I have here in our temporary digs (aside from The Four-Hour Work Week and The Intelligent Investor, but they’re more Neil’s thing).
I love some well-written true crime, and after the brilliant The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, this seemed exactly right (surely what the publisher hoped). Jane Robins illustrates the world of the early 1900s pretty expertly, giving us a snapshot of life for a single woman who hadn’t secured a marriage. And for expert witness testimony, too — the magnificent Spilsbury is a forensic pathologist who built a reputation for himself as being so precise and detailed that he was never wrong.
So. You can see where I’m going with this. Women are meeting and marrying a man who has swept them off their feet, and then they are soon discovered dead in a bath. Spilsbury is called in by the police to tie the crimes together forensically once they have their prime suspect. The sordid details of the lives and deaths of the women — along with the accused — provide a morbid distraction from the first world war.
Good detail, brilliant research, placed in context most sensitively — there’s an appearance by another famous killer for the geeks among us (only me, then? Okay). I raced through this book in one day and it’s a good one for taking on a relaxing holiday.