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miscarriage of justice

**BLOG TOUR** The Guilty Mother by Diane Jeffrey

In 2013, Melissa Slade was tried and convicted of the murder of her twin baby girls, but did she do it? Now, new evidence has come to light, seeming to support the view that it was, indeed, a miscarriage of justice and an appeal is planned to try to overturn her conviction. Newspaper reporter, Jonathan Hunt, covered the original case and now his boss wants him to take a closer look at the evidence to try to uncover the truth. Reluctantly, he begins to investigate, hoping to find out exactly what happened to Amber and Ellie Slade.

Losing a child is a tragedy that no parent should have to endure, but for Melissa Slade and her husband, Michael, this is only the beginning of their nightmare. The loss of Amber was attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, but the later death of Ellie caused the alarm bells to ring, with Melissa being convicted of her murder. We soon realise that at the time of the deaths, all was not well in the Slade household. Melissa was clearly struggling with the two girls, her relationship with her husband far from perfect. The addition of an au pair to help look after the babies added extra tension and with other family members from their previous marriages present in the house, there was no shortage of potential suspects.

As well as some of the book being written from the point of view of Melissa, we also have chapters written from the perspectives of Jonathan, and junior reporter, Kelly. Both of these characters had also experienced tragedy in their lives but I was pleased that this did not take over the story, something which other authors can often do. I found both of the journalists likeable, keen to uncover the truth about what had happened. I particularly enjoyed seeing how Kelly developed throughout the book, going from an inexperienced, wet behind the ears reporter, to someone who shows great promise in investigative journalism. Although The Guilty Mother appears to be a standalone book, I feel that there is enough scope in these characters to give them a second outing.

This is one of those books where you constantly change your mind about who was actually responsible for the deaths. Many of the characters had potential motives and my theory changed constantly as to what had happened. Despite working out one of the mysteries in the story, I did not predict the conclusion and was surprised when the truth was revealed. The ending is clever and definitely provided one of those ‘gasp’ moments!

I raced through this book, desperate to know the outcome. I have never read any of Diane Jeffrey’s work before, but I will definitely be rectifying this as soon as possible! A superb read!

With thanks to HQ Digital and Net Galley and to Izzy Smith for organising the blog tour.

 

 

 

On My Life by Angela Clarke

After a whirlwind romance, Jenna is preparing to marry Robert and become stepmother to his teenage daughter, Emily. Everything changes, however, when Emily is murdered and Robert is nowhere to be found, a trail of his blood leading the police to believe he has been dragged, dying, from the house. Arrested and charged with the murders, Jenna is adamant that she is innocent and that someone has set her up. Finding out that she is pregnant, she knows that she must, somehow, prove her innocence in order to provide a life for her unborn child.

Every now and then a book comes along that really makes you sit up and think about what you are reading – this is certainly one of those books. I have read several books set in women’s prisons but what sticks out here is the research that Angela Clarke has clearly done to provide an eye-opening account of what really goes on inside such a place. It was easy to picture the scene inside of the prison and, at times, felt genuine fear for Jenna as she tried to hide the fact that she was the ‘blonde slayer’ from the other inmates. Knowing she was innocent, I spent the whole book rooting for her and hoping that justice would prevail.

The book is told in two time frames, both as gripping as the other. As well as the real-time plot of Jenna’s prison life, we travel to the near-past to witness the build-up to the murder. It doesn’t take long to realise that all is not well in Robert’s life and that there are secrets that his family would prefer to be left hidden. Prior to the murder, we see Jenna discovering some of these secrets, leading her to wonder if it could be someone close to home who has set her up. Angela Clarke gives us just enough information about these characters to make you wonder which one, if any, it could be. A couple of events in the book did lead me to the right conclusion, but I was still left shocked when the whole truth was finally revealed.

It was, perhaps, the prison scenes that I enjoyed the most, especially those involving Jenna and her cellmate, Kelly. It was nice to see a genuine friendship developing and was a huge contrast to scenes involving the more violent inmates. It was inevitable that, at some point, Jenna’s identity would be revealed and I felt genuinely scared for her as, one by one, the other women began to turn on her.

Angela Clarke has done a fantastic job of highlighting the poor prison conditions, in particular those of pregnant women. I was already a fan of the author’s social media series but I feel that On My Life could be the book that puts her firmly in the public eye. This is a must read.

With thanks to Hodder & Stoughton / Mulholland Books for my copy. Take a look at my reviews of Angela Clarke’s other books:

Follow Me

Trust Me

Watch Me

The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay

61dkqcjG65LIn 1860, Mary Emsley, a 70-year-old widow of substantial means, was found bludgeoned to death at her home in London. Although she lived a fairly simple life, Mary was a wealthy woman due to the numerous houses she rented out around the London area, but this wealth brought its own problems. Seemingly disliked by many of her tenants, she employed a few trusted men to collect rents on her behalf although it was not unknown for her to venture into the roughest parts of town to receive the payments herself. Was her death at the hands of a disgruntled tenant or was the cause much closer to home?

With the body remaining undiscovered for several days, clues were limited. It was thought, though, that due to the woman’s distrust of strangers, and there being no evidence of a forced entry, the killer must have been admitted to the house by Mary herself. The police struggled to find a culprit until someone known to the murdered woman came forward with some information. On investigating this tip-off, the police found that there case had suddenly opened up – they now had a firm suspect for the first time.

The Mile End Murder sees Sinclair McKay re-examining the evidence (or lack of) and coming to the conclusion that a huge miscarriage of justice led to the execution of an innocent man. This was a view shared by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the infamous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. He would, some years later, write his own thoughts on the case, The Debatable Case of Mrs Emsley. Miscarriages of justice were not uncommon in the Victorian era, but it is still shocking to see how a man could be sentenced to death on a small amount of circumstantial evidence. The author has come up with another possible culprit although, again, lack of evidence would not see a modern jury find them guilty.

Victorian crime is something I have always enjoyed reading about and Sinclair McKay has written a very readable book dealing with not just the murder but also the social history of the period. The Mile End Murder has been well-researched and will appeal to anyone interested in historical crime of the Victorian period in general.

With thanks to Net Galley and Quarto Publishing Group – Aurum Press for my copy of The Mile End Murder.

 

 

 

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