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The Second-Last Woman in England Paperback – May 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Maggie Joel is a British-born writer currently living in Sydney. The Second-Last Woman in England is her Second novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Felony & Mayhem; Reprint edition (May 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781934609996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934609996
  • ASIN: 1934609994
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,506,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Anastasia McPherson on April 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Capital punishment was ended in England in the mid-sixties and even when practiced the hanging of a woman was closely followed. Most women were convicted and sentenced for murdering their husbands and the heroine of The Second-Last Woman in England is no exception, the prologue informs us that Harriet Wallis shot her husband in front of witnesses on Coronation Day in 1953. The question is why and Maggie Joel's closely observed mystery is in the manners and details of the why.

Harriet Wallis is a conventional upper middle class English woman, married to a respectable officer of a shipping company, with two children and a need for a new nanny in these hard-pressed times of rationing. On the surface, everything is as it should be, but family life is rarely that placid and the Wallis's have secrets and secret duties to those they love. The Second-Last Woman in Englang examines what happens when those passionate emotions come to the surface after being suppressed so rigidly.

The period detail is wonderful, not just in the descriptions of a country finallly recovering from war and rationing and in the descriptions of the Coronation preparations, but in the rigid social conventions that desptie the changes the war had brought were still stifling. The writing is smooth and top-notch with odd little bits of modern humor that wink pleasantly at the reader. And then there is the motive and the red herring. The motive is original as is the red herring, the reader sees none of it coming. With all of that said though the book is solid rather than spectacular, like the protagonists there is something missing in the feeling. The reader never feels the loyalties that give the motive for murder, even though they are clear and understood. Recommended for die-hard fans of the genteel British mystery and those who love to read of the upper English classes misbehaving. A-/B+.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin on February 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this title on someone's Pinterest board; it sounded like my kind of book. And it was. A well written, tightly plotted story that moves you through a few months in the lives of the characters. It reminded me of Ian McEwan's writing in a novel like Saturday, where the entire story takes place in a day. I read this book on my Kindle. I would recommend it to all because of the writing and mystery quality to the outcome of what is transpiring. Try it, I feel sure you will like it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By JULIE on April 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Family happenings behind closed doors ..... We think we know , but if you read this true story , it will keep you wondering right to the end . A great read.
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Format: Paperback
First, a comment on the title and what it implies. It's not the case of an English apocalypse or some science fiction event in Great Britain. The second part of the title that's not stated is " . . .to be sentenced to death."
The novel is a mystery although in the prologue we learn right away that in June 1953, Mrs. Harriet Wallis shot six bullets into her husband, Mr. Cecil Wallis, while he held a glass of champagne and anxiously awaited a TV broadcast of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. So, where's the mystery?
Maggie Joel was born in Hertfordshire, in England, in 1966. She worked in London for several years, and then in 1991 moved to Australia. Ms. Joel is quite adept at describing the postwar situation in England during 1953 and, by recollection of the book's characters, the terrible trauma of family deaths at the hand of Hitler's Luftwaffe and V-2 Rockets during WW2. (Full disclosure: my great grandmother was born in Manchester, England. I've also spent a great deal of time in England, working with British companies, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.) In spite of their many hardships, the book's characters manage to maintain the traditional stiff upper lip and even make subtle jokes at times. Jean Corbett, Nanny to the precocious Wallis children, returns to her old neighborhood one day and sees places where buildings used to stand, including her own home that was bombed. A neighbor she once knew gives her a chilly reception, reminding us that "you can't go home again."
The book plods along to the expected ending with a few surprises along the way and one incident involving Nanny Jean and Mr. Wallis that seemed totally gratuitous. Ms. Joel also points out the irony in Mrs.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
In May 1953, Great Britain is filled with energy for the future as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth is coming. Mr. Cecil Condor Wallis watches the gala from his home in South Kensington on his new television set. Family and friends are there also; as he and his wife Harriet host a coronation party. At precisely the moment that the newly crowned ruler steps on balcony at Buckingham while the thousands at the scene sang God Save the Queen and many more watching on TV, Harriet shoots Cecil six times. It took a jury forty five minutes to convict her. She was The Second-Last Woman in England to be hanged.

Nine months earlier, Mrs. Harriett Wallis looked forward to the future. Her spouse has a good paying prestigious job and their two kids are well behaved. It started when she hired Miss Corbett as a nanny to Anne and Julius. As she meets the kids, Inspector Harris arrives to talk with Cecil about Mr. Rocastle who worked at the same firm; he vanished after apparently embezzling funds. This is the beginning of the end for Cecil and Harriet Wall even while everyone is increasingly euphoric.

This is an enjoyable historical thriller that opens up with the murder followed by what led to the homicide. Harriet is like the rest of the country as life has begun to return to normal after the Depression and war, and the pending coronation brings fervor of renewal. Although the storyline never matches the opening psychological suspense, fans will enjoy reading this engaging tale wanting to know why.

Harriet Klausner
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