Jane Robins is a writer and broadcaster living in London. In the late 1980s she was a foreign correspondent for The Economist, working in India and South East Asia. On returning to Britain, she became a policy adviser at the BBC, and then editor of 'The Week in Westminster' on Radio 4. More recently she was media editor at The Independent on Sunday.
THE CURIOUS HABITS OF DR ADAMS
UK & British Commonwealth: John Murray
'Was rich Mrs Gertrude Hullett murdered at her luxurious 15-room home on Beachy Head? Detectives are tonight trying to establish the cause of the 50-year old widow's sudden death...' Daily Mail, 1957
In July 1957, the press descended in droves on the south-coast town of Eastbourne. An inquest had just been opened into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Bobbie Hullett. She died after months of apparent barbiturate abuse - the drugs prescribed to calm her nerves by her close friend and doctor, Dr John Bodkin Adams.
The inquest brought to the surface years of whispered suspicion that had swept through the tea rooms, shops and nursing homes of the town. The doctor's alarming influence over the lives, deaths and finances of wealthy widows had not gone unnoticed - it was rumoured that the family doctor had been on a killing spree that spanned decades and involved 300 suspicious cases. Superintendent Hannam of Scotland Yard was called in to investigate.
THE CURIOUS HABITS OF DR ADAMS brilliantly brings to life the atmosphere of post-war England, and uses a wealth of new documents to follow the twists and turns of an extraordinary Scotland Yard murder enquiry. As expertly crafted as the best period detective novel, this book casts an entertainingly chilling light on a man reputed to be one of England's most prolific serial killers.
THE MAGNIFICENT SPILSBURY AND THE BRIDES IN THE BATH
UK: John Murray; Italian: Einaudi
Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty have one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience.
In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings – the bathroom.
The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’?
REBEL QUEEN: THE TRIAL OF CAROLINE
UK: Simon & Schuster
The marriage of Caroline of Brunswick to the foppish and unpopular George, Prince of Wales began disastrously and soon got worse. He was repulsed by her vulgar looks and her filthy smell; she was disenchanted by his manners and his immediate call for brandy. They did not speak the same language. Three years later they were locked in enmity. Caroline moved to Europe where she lived life in flamboyant style entering into scandalous associations with her dashing Italian butler amongst others. After the death of their only daughter, George was determined that when he became King of England his wife would be barred from becoming Queen. In an attempt to divorce her, he brought Caroline to trial for adultery.
The trial that followed in 1820 was one of history’s most sensational episodes. The event was manipulated by republicans and rabble-rousers of every political shade, and brought Britain to the brink of outright rebellion. At the same time Caroline was idolised by the popular press and loved by the common people who identified with a woman in distress. She became a surprising and unlikely political symbol; a revolutionary Queen; a people’s princess. Rebel Queen is an account of this trial where the royal bed-linen was scandalously washed in public.