The Murder of Harriet Monckton – Elizabeth Haynes

From the award-winning and bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner comes a delicious Victorian crime novel based on a real murder and marking the author’s breakthrough into historical fiction.

About the Book: The Murder of Harriet Monckton is based on a true story that shocked and fascinated the nation.

On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, was found murdered in the privy behind the dissenting chapel she had regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. The community was appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant.

Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters, each of whom have a reason to want her dead. Harriet Monckton had at least three lovers and several people were suspected of her murder, including her close companion and fellow teacher, Miss Frances Williams. The scandal ripped through the community, the murderer was never found and for years the inhabitants of Bromley slept less soundly.

This rich, robust novel is full of suggestion and suspicion, with the innocent looking guilty and the guilty hiding behind their piety. It is also a novel that exposes the perilous position of unmarried women, the scandal of sex out of wedlock and the hypocrisy of upstanding, church-going folk.

About the Author:  Elizabeth Haynes worked for many years as a police analyst. Her debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, won Amazon’s Book of the Year in 2011 and Amazon’s Rising Star Award for debut novels.

Elizabeth grew up in Sussex and studied English, German and Art History at Leicester University. She is currently taking a career break having worked for the past seven years as a police intelligence analyst. Elizabeth now lives in Kent with her husband and son, and writes in coffee shops and a shed-office which takes up most of the garden. She is a regular participant in, and a Municipal Liaison for, National Novel Writing Month – an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

My Review:  If you follow my reviews or are a member of THE Book Club then you will know that Elizabeth Haynes is one of my all time favourite authors and her debut book INTO THE DARKEST CORNER is, in my humble opinion, the BEST psychological thriller EVER.  So you can imagine my surprise, delight and excitement to receive one of the first advanced copy proofs of her new book THE MURDER OF HARRIET MONCKTON, especially as I didn’t even know she had written a new book!

I will admit to feeling slightly less excited when I realised this book was a “dramatic fictionalisation based on a true story from 1843”, as it’s not one of my preferred genres and was concerned I wouldn’t enjoy the story because of the genre.

How silly am I?  (Don’t answer that!).  The Murder of Harriet Monckton is absolutely BRILLIANT.  Firstly, you need to know that this book is based on a true story as the author chanced upon two documents whilst researching another book at the National Archives in London.  These documents were the correspondence between the coroner and the Home Secretary from December 1844 and from this Elizabeth Haynes interest was piqued and her research into what happened to Harriet Monckton has resulted in this fascinating story.

When you read the authors “Afterword” you realise how incredible this book really is, Elizabeth Haynes has created a story based on 2 documents and brought to life a wonderful array of characters, recreated a truly authentic Bromley and given a voice to an intriguing mystery surrounding the death of a young woman.

The story is narrated through several characters all connected to Harriet Monckton and each voice is plausible and authentic.  It was so easy to be drawn into their lives, feel their emotions and care about them.  I was transported instantly to a different era where women were struggling to be heard, men were respected regardless of their behaviour and religion was paramount to the well being of the community.

Highly recommended.

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