In life, no one really cared much about housemaid Jane Maria Clouson. She spent most of her time working for wealthy families in England. After she was found with gashes in her head, her right eye destroyed, and parts of her brain leaking from her shattered skull, however, Jane became a major figure in Victorian crime stories and one of the first unsolved cases of the era.
The book Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane covers a great deal of territory in exploring a single crime. The horrific details of the attack that disfigured and eventually killed Jane, her personal history, and the history of her lover are all covered in great detail. Jane was a servant for the wealthy Pook family, and after her death it was discovered she was two-months pregnant with Edward Pook’s child. While much of the evidence pointed to Edward Pook as the possible murderer, wealth and a lack of strong forensic techniques made it difficult to put him at the scene of the crime. After all, how could a wealthy man from a well-respected family be responsible for the death of their maid? I hope you’ll note my sarcasm there. For anyone who has read Victorian murder stories and novels, you’ll note that life was rather brutal and hard to move through unless you were of the upper class. Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane details the crime itself, the trial that followed, and the personal lives of those involved with great detail and care.
Author Paul Thomas Murphy does an incredible of job of walking the fine line between crime reporting and giving the reader emotional ties to the murder involved. He is careful to point out the facts, while still making us cringe for a life cut short. His writing style makes it easy to lose track of time and suddenly realize you’ve been reading for the past several hours without stopping. For the true crime or lovers of Victorian era macabre, Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane is definitely book to add to your read list.
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane is now available from Pegasus Books.