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Crippen: A Novel of Murder Paperback – January 23, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (January 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312343590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312343590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Had Charles Dickens been around to turn his talents to fictionalizing the classic Crippen murder case, the result might well have been close to this superb, multifaceted novel from Irish author Boyne (The Thief of Time). The crime, a cause célèbre in 1910, is probably best remembered for its denouement, which featured a race across the Atlantic by Scotland Yard Insp. Walter Dew in pursuit of his suspects aboard a cruise ship. Boyne brings all the characters in this drama to life, skillfully shifting perspectives and using flashbacks and flash-forwards. While his depiction of Hawley Crippen, a quack and self-proclaimed doctor with a disturbing taste for butchery, and his mistress is admittedly speculative, the author's imaginings of their inner lives and motivations are plausible. His version of the events of the night when Crippen's harridan wife met her gruesome death is convincing, despite the lack of historical support. Boyne is to be commended for his ability to alternate between Wodehousian humor and Edwardian noir. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Based on the case of a man who murdered his wife and hacked her body to bits and almost got away with it, Boyne's novel weaves together Hawley Crippen's attempt to flee England for Canada with his much-younger mistress, Ethel LeNeve, on the SS Montrose with the events in Crippen's life that led up to the murder. Disguised as father and son, Crippen and Ethel aren't able to fly under the radar as they'd hoped when they attract the attention of a gossipy matron; her amorous daughter, who is peeved when Ethel doesn't fall for her charms; and the ship's reserved captain. Crippen, a man whose ambitions to become a doctor were squelched by his religious mother, has finally found happiness and love with Evelyn after two failed marriages. But the suspicions of a persistent socialite friend of Crippen's second wife set Scotland Yard on the would-be doctor's tail. Boyne captures the excitement of the hunt for Crippen that ensued as well as offering a surprising twist at the novel's conclusion. Gripping historical fare. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

The story was excellent and the characters were very real.
Amazon Customer
This is simply a fantastic story with keen character insight and great dialogue.
Better yet, save your free time and do not read this book!
Roberta White

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
John Boyne's "Crippen" is a superb historical mystery in which the author puts his own spin on a heinous crime that took place in Camden, England in 1910. Dr. Hawley Crippen is not really a doctor, but rather a mousy individual who has read up on medical subjects and taken some correspondence courses. However, Hawley is not averse to passing himself off as a doctor in order to eke out a living. He is incredibly unlucky with women. When he marries for the second time, he makes the mistake of choosing a harridan named Cora, who abuses him both verbally and physically when she is not busy taking other men into her bed. After Cora is found murdered and hacked to death in the cellar of the Crippen household, Hawley is the prime suspect.

"Crippen" is a textured, involving, and suspenseful psychological study of how a mentally unstable parent can permanently damage her child, and how a monstrous woman can make her husband's existence into a living hell. In addition, Boyne brilliantly, and with mordant humor, analyzes the hypocrisy of the upper classes in England, the predatory nature of newspaper reporters, and the impossibility of ever fully understanding the complexity of people's motives, feelings, and desires.

The author constructs his story meticulously, teasing the reader with bits of information that become meaningful later on in the narrative. He goes back and forth in time, creating a rich and colorful tapestry with fully realized and lively characters.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Part murder mystery and part historical novel John Boyne's sensational Crippen: a Novel of Murder tells of the real Crippen murder case, which occurred in London in 1910. Boyne, in his story, beautifully brings to life this world in all its self-propriety grandeur, and in the process, emphasizes humanity's mordant desire to know the all the facts about the most macabre and chilling crimes such as this.

Boyne presents Crippen as a complex and enigmatic man - whom although painted as a monster for murdering his wife, chopping her up and burying pieces of her under the stones in his cellar - was in reality a meek and harmless person who probably wouldn't hurt a fly. The novel traces the historical journey of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen from his childhood in Canada, where his worldview was shaped by his puritanical, severely religious mother.

Desiring to become a doctor, yet unable to be given all the advantages of education so that he might escape his family, Crippen travels to America, eventually finding work as a medical assistant, his second rate qualifications obtained through correspondence courses.

It is in New York where Hawley meets Cora Turner, a music hall dancer, who convinces him to take her to London so that she can fulfill her dream of becoming a famous diva. But Cora turns out to be a shrieking and violent harpy, a heartless, evil, nasty and manipulative witch, and a flagrantly vulgar, lustful and faithless wife who constantly hounds Hawley for not being socially good enough.

Cora ends up abusing Hawley physically, unashamedly sleeping with other men in their house. At first, he was her way out of the gutter and she was someone who listened to him and said she believed in him.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Angelo A. Cataldi Jr. on May 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
An absolutely brilliant effort. Tightly plotted, with characters that call to mind a long-past era, this is one of the best historically-based novels of the new millenium.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hughes on November 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
I know the Crippen case very well. I have read several true crime historical accounts of it and very much enjoyed the recent book Thunderstruck the Crippen and Marconi stories. The author here attempts to fictionalise the story and I have no quarrel with that but he has failed. The female characters, especially, Mrs. Smythson, the Drakes, and Cora Crippen are cardboard stereotypes.

It's a period story with precious little period detail. In 1912, no policeman would have used the expression "media circus."

The author's "twist on the story" is plausible and may be the most interesting thing about this generally exasperating effort.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Crabtree VINE VOICE on January 31, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The saga of "Doctor" Crippen would have probably yielded a fine true crime story but simply does not click as a novel, at least this one doesn't. I'm certain that the renowned facts of this infamous murder case somewhat limited (perhaps unconsciously) the author's ability to use his imagination and think more outside of the box.


The story here, based upon an actual account and dramatized, is about an American man who wanted to become a doctor but did not have the financial resources to do so. He enrolled in some medical correspondence training as a sop and began calling himself a doctor. Then Crippen ended up in London, practicing medicine (sort of), and found himself married to a hellish woman whom was eventually murdered and dismembered. Ultimately, the "doctor" attempts escape to Canada, along with a devoted lover, to avoid the subsequent investigation by a Scotland Yard Inspector. A chase across the Atlantic ensues.

The author took the key facts and other details of the Crippen murder case and built upon it... quite too much, in fact. The book is notably too long, by 100 pages at least, for the material covered and in the manner in which it was covered. The fact is, the story of Crippen, as extracted from this novel, could have been typed out, double-spaced, on two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, especially considering that no criminal trial details were incorporated into the tale.

There is a definite lack of character development here -- all the principals (Crippen excepted) seem superficial, vague... black-and-white. The author depends upon the reader to say, "Oh I know just the sort of person he means." We DO, but we still want him to tell us!
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