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The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice de Janze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll Hardcover – July 20, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Please note: the ebook edition does not include photos that originally appeared in the printed book.

The 1941 fatal shooting of British earl Joss Erroll in Kenya made headlines worldwide (and was the subject of the book and movie White Mischief). A cuckolded husband was acquitted, and now Kenyan-born former oil executive Spicer intriguingly fingers his late mother™s friend, Countess Alice de Janzé, Joss™s discarded mistress. Alice™s complicated and violent love life was possibly attributable to bipolar disorder and to abandonment by her father, a self-made American millionaire, when Alice was 13. Alice married a French count, Frédéric de Janzé, and to escape the stuffy confines of French society, the couple spent much of their time in Kenya. There Alice had two love affairs that, according to Spicer, goaded Alice to violence: she made a botched murder-suicide attempt in 1927 when English aristocrat Raymund de Trafford rejected her, yet they married in 1932 (Alice had already left her husband). Alice had also begun a two-decade-long liaison with Joss. Though Joss had many enemies, Spicer posits that Alice killed Joss, and months later, at age 42, committed suicide, hoping they would be reunited in the afterlife. The author™s depiction of the unstable heiress and her milieu of wealthy expatriates cavorting in the Kenyan highlands is engrossing. 8 pages of b&w photos.
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From Booklist

Kenya's notorious “Happy Valley” set flourished during the twenties and thirties, providing enough scandalous fodder to fuel numerous books and movies. The Kenyan-born Spicer takes a leaf from Frances Osborne's The Bolter: Idina Sackville—the Woman Who Scandalized 1920s Society and Became White Mischief's Infamous Seductress (2009) by chronicling the checkered life of Alice de Janzé, another fascinating, if twisted, resident of Happy Valley. Focusing on the unsolved murder of the wickedly handsome Joss Hay, Lord Erroll in 1941, he alleges that Alice, a fading American glamour girl with a penchant for titled aristos, actually shot Erroll in a fit of insanely jealous pique. Basing his theory on the thinnest of evidence—gossip, hearsay, and a letter of confession from Alice that he has never actually seen—he nevertheless paints an intriguing portrait of a thoroughly debauched social circle. Recommend this speculative true-crime scenario to readers prepared to reconcile simultaneous feelings of intrigue and antipathy. --Margaret Flanagan

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312379706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312379704
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a way, the title character Alice de Janzés is only a pretext for telling a story about British colonization of Kenya. Against lyrical descriptions of landscape, the political scheme of the "Lunatic Line" (the railroad linking Mombasa on the coast to the highlands of Kenya) tells a story about Britain's determination to have a strong foothold in eastern Africa.

What I liked about this book:

* lengthy, evocative descriptions of Kenya, from its coastal regions to its highlands and valleys;
* its full exploration of transportation and crops that assisted Britain's colonization;
* themes of what it means to be an American expatriate. In places like Paris, my own experience is that it hasn't changed much;
* the thorough inquiry into the title character's childhood and youth.

But what I didn't like was

* the "we can assume" tone (sometimes verbatim) that is used to interpret the thoughts and behaviors of some of the principals;
* a sense that the writer doesn't really like his subject (to which a reasonable retort might be that she simply isn't a sympathetic character);
* the strong whiff of psychological autopsy, a notion I reject outright;
* the title: arguably the title character is no more scandalous than any of the other leading players in this story.

This isn't a book for kids, imho. There are lengthy passages that deal with debauchery on a level that is frankly cringe-making. But for those with an interest in how some of the colonists lived in Kenya from early to mid-twentieth century, there is plenty to digest and mull over.

I'll be seeking out literature about the Mombasa railway and about the history of safaris in east Africa. So, for all my reservations, it's hard to complain much about a book that I know has sent me off on a treasure hunt for more knowledge about a fascinating place and time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is a big problem with books like this one, you finish it, go online to amazon.com and order every book that's been published on the subject! Bet you can't read just one!

The Temptress is about an American woman who ends up in Africa during the British land rush period just before WWII. It is where the Brits went to be bad! 'Bad' in the sense that they could swap wives, lovers, drink till they dropped, skinny dip in neighbor's pools and kill big and small animals. With this as a back-drop, how could you not love these books?

Mr. Spicer comes by this story of Alice Silverthorne de Janze through his mother, Margaret, who was in Africa and knew Alice and her husband. However, this is not just about Alice. It is about one of her lovers (of 20 years), Joss Hay and his unsolved murder. So many books have been written about the death of the handsome, blond Englishman (The Earl of Errol), but this one is so tastefully written you aren't sidetracked by all the sex, drugs and madness surrounding their lives. The film 'White Mischief' (unfortunately not on DVD)is a version of the story.

Mr. Spicer has done his research extremely well. You learn of Alice's family (both sides), the death of her mother when Alice is very young, and how she grows up spoiled by her father and relatives to the point of disbelief. She never heard the word 'no' in her life, it appears. To complicate her traumatic childhood, she suffers from deep depression, even as a child.

Instead of going into the story which goes from the US to Paris to Africa, back and forth, read this book yourself. I could not put it down last evening and sat up all night reading it to the last page, 221. Riviting. Frustrating. Historical.
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By A Customer on July 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1899 Alice Silverthorne was born in Buffalo. Her father was a self made lumber baron and her mother a Chicago socialite. In 1913 the family imploded as law suits are filed to include custody of Alice. In 1920 Alice and her guardian Aunt Tattie go to Paris where she meets Count Frederic de Jantze. They marry and she gives birth to her first child in 1922. The family spends much of their time in Kenya. In 1927 Alice fails to kill herself and her lover Lord Raymund de Trafford when he dumped her. Five years later he becomes her second spouse. Meanwhile from almost her arrival in Kenya she has an affair for years with Joss Hay (Lord Erroll). In 1941 Joss is shot to death; soon after Alice commits suicide.

The cold case murder was international news in 1941 and made into a book by James Fox and movie White Mischief. Using family documents and photos as Paul Spicer's mom was a friend of Alice; the author makes a strong argument that the apparently passionate delusional Alice killed Joss and then herself. Historical fans and biographical readers will fully enjoy "The Scandalous Life of Alice de Jantze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll" as Mr. Spicer provides a deep nonfiction account in which he defends his assertion that Alice killed Erroll in her quest to be loved.

Harriet Klausner
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I first became aware of the subject matter concerning this book when I saw the 1987 film "White Mischief" which had to deal the decandent society known as the
"Happy Valley Set."

When I read Piers Brandon's chapter about the Happy Valley Set, I purchased this book. It is a purported biography of American heiress Alice de Janze, that claims that it solves the 1941 murder of Lord Eroll.

The "thesis" of this book is that de Janze, mentally unstable, aging and having lost her popularity murdered Eroll in a fit of insane rage then killed herself
about a month or so later.

What it really is, is a defense of the prime suspect in the murder as well as Eroll's own wife. The book portray's "The Happy Valley Set" as a bunch of lefties straight out of the 1960's American Counter Culture.

While never mentioning Brandon's assertions about pro Mussolini & pro Hitler leanings as well as racism and anti semitism.

The author claims to have in his poession de Janze's own confession amongst her papers, yet he never produces this confession in a appendix.

This book is really a form of spin-doctoring designed "to prove" that a realtive of his was not the killer, indeed you are better off you purchase Brandon's book about the British Empire, and Osborne's book "The Bolter" than this piece of,
crap.The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 (Vintage)THE BOLTER - Idina Sackville - the woman who scandalised 1920s society and became White Mischief's infamous seductress
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