MURDER IN THE FIRST-CLASS CARRIAGE: The First Victorian Railway Killing by Kate Colquhoun

murderPUBLISHER: The Overlook Press, 11/2011
ORIGINAL PUB: Little, Brown, 5/2011 as Mr. Briggs’ Hat
GENRE: Nonfiction/Biography/Historical true crime
SETTING: England, 1864
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: In July 1864, Thomas Briggs was traveling home after visiting his niece and her husband for dinner. He boarded a first-class carriage on the 9:45 pm Hackney service of the North London railway. At Hackney, two bank clerks discovered blood in the seat cushions as well as on the floor, windows, and sides of the carriage. A bloodstained hat was found on the seat along with a broken link from a watch chain. The race to identify the killer and catch him as he fled on a boat to America was eagerly followed by the public on both sides of the Atlantic. Kate Colquhoun tells a gripping tale of a crime that shocked the era.

MY THOUGHTS: This was a very detailed, well researched and descriptive account of the crime but not as exciting as I was expecting. That’s not the authors fault, though. When I get a book that sounds so interesting I build it up so big in my head, telling myself it’s going to be the greatest book ever, and I end up let down.

I just wish there had been sketches of the key players in the case, especially of the killer, German immigrant Franz Müller. He’s described as being twenty-three, not very tall, thin, fair-skinned, prominent cheekbones, small gray eyes, and wavy dark blond hair with eyebrows so light you can barely see them.

I like that the author hypothesized what probably went down in the carriage that night, saying Franz likely didn’t even know he’d murdered Thomas in a botched robbery. What she didn’t say is how he got out of a moving train without any injuries.

The book is 339 pages but the actual story is only 282 pages. There’s an extensive bibliography as well as a very helpful section in the back that’s got the names of all the people mentioned in the book and who they were/what role they played in the trial.

There’s a mediocre hour long BBC documentary about this from 2013 called Murder on the Victorian Railway that you can watch.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Franz Müller

Franz Müller

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