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THE MURDER OF MADELINE BROWN - Francis Adams
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The Murder of Madeline Brown
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I'll be honest - I was keen to read this book because of the similarity in timeframe for its writing to that of Fergus Hume's The Mystery of the Hansom Cab - and because of Shane Maloney's excellent introduction to the book comments that Adam's made no particularly literary claims for this novel, and possibly wrote it in an attempt to capitalise on Mr Hume's huge success. Interestingly I liked the Hansom Cab book very much. Even allowing for the differences in timeframes, languages and sensibilities, the story still held up well - the investigation felt reasonable and realistic and the characterisations were well drawn. Alas Madeline Brown's book doesn't hold up quite so well.
The central character - Mr Stuart - investigates the brutal murder of the woman he loves and admires - he is a journalist (as was Mr Adams). She is an American beauty of slightly questionable parentage, come to the colonies with her maid, separated from her husband (with an initially vague back story of him being a bit of a brute). Mrs Brown eventually takes to the stage with a successful singing and acting career albeit short-lived. She has been introduced to society via the auspices of a vague family connection to a local Canon of the church and it is within "society" that she has risen in meteoric steps, gathering admirers around her before her death. It is to the Canon that Stuart must turn to try to find out more about the enigmatic Mrs Brown.
Mr Stuart investigates because the police are basically regarded by him (and if he is to be believed by everybody in "society") as a bunch of imbeciles and buffoons. Mr Stuart is himself dangerously close to being a bit of an idiot as he stomps around the crime scene - removing and altering evidence as he goes - all in the spirit of him being able to solve what the police couldn't possibly be trusted with. Of course, knowing the author's background one is instantly left to wonder only whether Mr Adams is trying to convince himself of his own superiority or whether this was a generally held belief in the circles he moved in - compare if you will with Mr Hume's book of a similar timeframe. All of that aside though - and to be honest - it was vaguely amusing - the biggest disappointment with THE MURDER OF MADELINE BROWN is that it's not so much a mystery (as the killer's not that tricky to guess). It is however a social history or sneak peak at the views of the time - and for that it's worth reading.
Submitted 8 years 11 months ago by
Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 3:34pm
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