Category: Death

A Good Old-Fashioned Murder

Review: The Lake District Murder – by John Bude

You know what’s nice? Watching people who are good at things do them well. There’s something so utterly satisfying about it.

This is the reason I love watching the Olympics, the rugby world cup… less so the football world cup! I love watching shows where people make stuff, like glass blowing, wood working and mending cars.

Of course, it’s always a pleasure to watch Hercule Poirot go about deducting, but there’s always something kept from the viewer/reader. Poirot is always held above – we don’t figure things out at the same time as he does, because we aren’t finicky little Belgians with a penchant for details. We’ve got jobs and messy flats, and hobbies beyond trimming mustachios.

The Lake District Murder doesn’t focus on superhuman personality and mighty little grey cells, instead the reader follows the process of some good, careful, thorough policing.

When a body is found at an isolated garage, Inspector Meredith is drawn into a complex investigation where every clue leads to another puzzle: was this a suicide, or something more sinister? Why was the dead man planning to flee the country? And how is this connected to the shady business dealings of the garage? This classic mystery novel is set amidst the stunning scenery of a small village in the Lake District.

In contrast with the irrepressible personality of detectives like Poirot, Inspector Meredith is almost without personality. He’s how I imagine a right and proper gent from the 30s – he always stops for lunch, he’s always punctual, never complains and has a healthy respect for his bosses. He’ll go the extra mile to solve a case, not because he’s on a mission for justice so much as because it’s his job, so that’s what he’s supposed to do.

We follow Inspector Meredith and are party to his innermost thoughts, both when he thinks then and when he reports them, working with him as he extrapolates his findings and posits solutions. In spite of the dead body, this is such a low drama mystery, as gentle and meandering as the roads around the Lake District which he must traverse on his combination motorbike.

Worth noting I’ve not been to the Lake District since I was 12 and as such have very little idea of the roads.

To compare this to the high-octane thrillers and American cop dramas I’ve been more familiar with, this probably reminds me most of Bones, both the tv show and the Kathy Reichs books. It’s methodical, it’s the complex made simple. The whodunnit aspect of The Lake District Murder isn’t a secret for long – we know for most of the book- the journey and the excitement comes from bringing the perpetrators to justice, in finding proof where there seems to be none, and all with careful, methodical thought and action. Gentle and uniquely satisfying, this book gave me the same kind of joy as watching Edd China replacing brake discs.

See how you feel about extremely thorough police work here!

The Murder Bit.

I’ve been on holiday this past week, which you might think would mean I’ve had plenty of time to do loads of my own personal work, unhampered by the ties of the day job. You would be incorrect. What’s actually happened is I’ve ground to a shuddering halt and watched two full seasons of Game Of Thrones. Time well spent, yes, but it has put me behind on reading for this blog.

Oh no Jon Snow!

I did read a book while I was on leave, but it was in no way relevant to a blog which is, at best, tenuously linked to historical mysteries. I’ve linked it here, it you’re interested, but otherwise I’m not going to mention it.

In lieu of that, and bearing in mind that if I stop posting weekly I’ll probably never start again, let’s look at some books about DEATH.

Click the images for more information.

Amazing True Stories of Execution Blunders – by Geoffrey Abbott

These days, I consider myself something of an historical death aficionado, in so much as a person can be when they read a lot of fiction and are easily grossed out. I know all about the old punishments and the ones which never really happened, but this introduced me to several more disgusting methods which I had known nothing about. It’s not quite so Horrible Histories as it looks, either, and was a heavily sobering look at how awful people used to be – and still sometimes are.

The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death – by Timothy Taylor

Yes. This one.

I think it’s always a sign of a good book when you can remember, over a year later, exactly what you were doing when you started it.

I was on a train to London early one morning, sitting by myself in a deserted carriage. I was nervous about what I was going to London for – something to do with the day job – and wasn’t at all sure I’d chosen the right book to bring. I was testing myself – it was the first non-fiction book I’d ever read about death, and given my history and temperament, it could have set me off into a quivering, shrieking mess. Parts of it almost did.

The Buried Soul is a comprehensive look at the culture which has grown up around death, dating far back into pre-history and spanning the globe. It takes a close and respectful look at the taboos surrounding the way we treat our dead, the superstitions which have developed in different parts of the world and why, and what I found most interesting of all, our changing attitudes to cannibalism. Both grim and enlightening, a non-judgemental and intellectual study of why we do what we do, and why we stopped doing what we did.

Ladies! Beware!

Review: Kill Me Again – Rachel Abbott

As a person who is constantly aware of the creeping shadow of death, it surely won’t surprise you to learn that I practice constant vigilance. If I’ve learned anything from all of these thrillers and mystery novels I’ve been reading, it’s that most people are psychopaths, and you probably won’t find out until it’s too late.

As a young(ish) lady of a naturally anxious disposition, it’s been reassuring to have what I strongly supposed backed up so consistently. I have the pessimist’s pleasure of being proved right.


Unfortunately for the heroines of what I like to call Lady Mysteries(TM), they do not share my sense of constant vigilance. In Kill Me Again, in spite of her career as a defence lawyer, and therefore regular contact with serial killers, Maggie Taylor is not of an anxious disposition, nor does she mistrust all people. Indeed, she believes she lives a pretty idyllic life, until her husband disappears.

When your life is a lie, who can you trust? 
When Maggie Taylor accepts a new job in Manchester, she is sure it is the right move for her family. The children have settled well although her husband, Duncan, doesn’t appear to be so convinced.
But nothing prepares her for the shock of coming home from work one night to find that Duncan has disappeared, leaving their young children alone. His phone is dead, and she has no idea where he has gone, or why. And then she discovers she’s not the only one looking for him.

When a woman who looks just like Maggie is brutally murdered and DCI Tom Douglas is brought in to investigate, Maggie realises how little she knows about Duncan’s past. Is he the man she loves? Who is he running from?

She doesn’t have long to decide whether to trust him or betray him. Because one thing has been made clear to Maggie – another woman will die soon, and it might be her.

It’s an odd thing, the idea that you can be married to someone for ten years, think yourself blissfully in love, and then find out that you didn’t know them at all.  On the one hand, how could anyone possibly be so stupid? But on the other hand, I regularly find out things I didn’t know about friends or co workers who I’ve known for years, and they weren’t things they were trying to keep secret. I’ve been in close relationships with people who have manipulated and lied to me for years without my knowledge. It happens.

When Maggie begins to unravel her husband’s lies, she struggles to cope with the idea that she’s married to a stranger. Yet the important part of Maggie’s story is less about what she did not know, and more about the choices she makes when she does find out the truth. She’s torn between Duncan’s betrayal of her, and the idea of betraying the man she loves to the police.

As the story evolved and more and more was revealed, I was drawn in to the point where I couldn’t put it down. It’s tense – I read the last 20% with my hand over my mouth and in a mad rush.

I’ve been thinking about this book from a feminist aspect, too. The women in this are almost all victims in the hands of men. They’re lied to, murdered, tortured, threatened. That seems to be the way in these things, doesn’t it? Serial killers usually are men, after all, and historically, women are the victims. Perhaps that’s why I always look out for books which tend the other way – it is fiction after all. I’d love any recommendations, are there any thrillers you’ve enjoyed with female serial killers?

All the men in Kill Me Again are awful in some way or another, apart from DCI Tom Douglas, the chiselled hero and Maggie’s son Josh, who is a small child. I honestly don’t think it would pass the Bechdel test, but that isn’t to say that all of the women are weak, in spite of being victims. I enjoyed the women in this, and that is because of Maggie’s actions towards the end. It was a great twist and I’d definitely read a Maggie-centred sequel, which there would be room for. In lieu of that, I’d definitely pick up another Rachel Abbott book.

Give Kill Me Again a try here, and let me know what you think!

If you like psychopaths (or reading about them, at any rate), and you haven’t yet read Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, then I can’t recommend it more highly. And if my word isn’t good enough, perhaps Louis Tomlinson will sway you.

About The Author

Review: About The Author – John Colapinto

To start with a gross generalisation, there’s little more interesting to writers than writers, and the most interesting writer to any writer is themselves. We marvel at our own artistic process, the way we can torture ourselves and hate ourselves and bleed into the page, and create unreadable rubbish and then – on magical moments – emerge with words of true genius. Words we may not even remember writing, but which speak to humanity with truth and ageless wisdom.

It’s the allure of the artist, the god creator, world builder, and purveyor of lies and truth in equal measure. And we write about ourselves, and then lie about it.

Experience colours what you write, and I am written into every line of sin and murder in my own books by dint only of having written them, (not, I hasten to add, due to having done any of that stuff). Perhaps that’s because I’m a ham writer, but perhaps it’s just the nature of being human. We can never fully dissociate from ourselves.

Enter About The Author, a Hitchcockian thriller about precisely that – the separation of the story and the writer.

Cal Cunningham lives a debauched life filled with hollow love affairs, only so at some point he can write the next great American novel about it all.

He doesn’t write a word for years.

Unbeknownst to him, his quiet flatmate Stewart harbours his own dream to be a writer, and has written a novel based on stories Cal has told him, even using Cal’s title – Almost Like Suicide.

Following a freak accident which claims Stewart’s life, Cal feels no qualms about stealing the manuscript and passing it off as his own – he is the protagonist, after all! It’s based on his own past, his own words are quoted. Never mind that Stewart’s skilled prose far exceeds anything Cal could hope to have matched.

What follows is a tense path to fame and riches, followed by increasingly desperate actions on Cal’s part to try and prevent his fall from grace.

Let’s not beat around the bush – Cal’s an asshole. An unmitigated asshole. He is selfish and self-obsessed, and the bruising of his ego at the discovery of Stewart’s hidden talents is the catalyst for the hot mess of Cal’s ascent to the glory he thinks he deserves, but has yet to earn.

But Stewart, the poor, wronged genius taken too soon, is also an asshole, and so too are most of the people in the book. Yet in spite of all this assholery, I found myself warming to Cal. I wanted him to succeed because by the end, boy did he work for that success. As to whether or not he gets it, I’ll leave to you to find out.

About The Author is a masterclass of rising tension, and a pleasantly uncomfortable read.

See if you agree here, and I’d love to know what you think!

Coming Home, a Mystery of Lies and Ladies

Review: Coming Home – Annabel Kantaria

Some books just grab you. I spent about a week dipping in and out of a not-particularly-interesting book that I was glad to finish, then started Coming Home. I wanted something exciting, something a bit dark, and this seemed to fit the bill.

Coming Home by Annabel Kantaria

Hey, if Judy Finnigan loved it…

Boy, did it ever.

Evie, 28, has lived in Dubai for 5 years. She left London to escape from the shadow of her brother’s death, and the demands of her unstable mother. She’s had the time of her life, finally free from the emotional shackles of her family and able to become her own person at last.

Then her father dies.

Evie returns home to face not only her father’s death, but also the mother she left behind.

Struggling to cope with a grief she isn’t able to express, Evie begins to uncover her father’s secrets. These are revealed in tandem with flashbacks of therapy sessions Evie had as a child following the sudden death of her brother. Every page seems to bring new questions, and what would be a main plot twist in another book is just another layer in this one.

Who did her father transfer enormous sums of money to, just before his death?

Where did her father really go during the week when he said he was away working?

Why did Evie’s father not tell her about the cancer which had got so bad, so quickly?

Why doesn’t Evie’s mother speak to her brother?

And most importantly of all, how much did her mother already know?

I got a real sense of the confusion felt by Evie as she discovered hidden truths and faced memories she’d deliberately buried. Having spent her life trying to help her parents at the expense of her own grief, Evie’s shock and confusion at being lied to is palpable. In a world which places so much emphasis on the sanctity and perfection of a mother’s love, I am always interested in stories regarding the significant absence or abuse of that love.

It’s an emotionally complex book, and I welled up several times while reading – and I had to read it all in one sitting. We lost someone a few months ago, and the grief in this book rang so true, it brought back everything I’d felt during that awful period. It was a difficult read, but a worthwhile one.

The numbness of grief coupled with having to grapple with what, at the best of times, would be overwhelmingly difficult truths, are sensitively and honestly brought to life by Kantaria’s delicately woven prose.

I couldn’t put this book down and raced to the conclusion, only to find myself left with a moral dilemma. The question of all questions – how far would you go to protect your family? I know which path I’d have chosen. Why don’t you find out what you’d do?

The best mystery I’ve read in a long time, and one I recommend highly. Read it now, so I can talk to you about it!

And if you like it, you may also enjoy The Disappearance – another mystery of lies and ladies by the same author.

Death at the Priory

Review: Death at the Priory – Love, Sex and Murder in Victorian England – by James Ruddick

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a friend, and she said an approximation of the following:

“We woman all say we want equality, but really we want to go back to being married off and put on a pedestal by our husbands.”

The romanticism of arranged marriages in history is what inspired me to write An Unnatural Daughter – one of my first forays into having my heroines murder people. Historically, marriage hasn’t been all that great for ladies. They gained protection, yes, but at what cost?

There were, however, things they could do to get by – things that they did to help themselves when the demands on their bodies became too great.

This is where Death at the Priory comes in – an investigation into one of  Victorian England’s most famous unsolved murders.

41QY4CDFYYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (221×346)

I bought it for the juicy murder, but came away with a deeper understanding of how women of a certain class coped with difficult marriagesIt introduces us to Florence Bravo, a woman ahead of her time. Educated, wealthy, vivacious and beautiful, she had a loving and supportive family and everything going for her. But that support stopped when, having married a man who turned out to be a violent alcoholic, she asked her parents for help leaving him. I shan’t go into too much detail, but on the advent of her second marriage, Florence realized she’d made the same mistake again.

The first half of the book introduces us to the victim and suspects, and paints an intriguing picture of the lead up to the long and agonising death of Florence’s second husband, Charles Bravo, who was poisoned by an unknown hand. The second half follows Ruddick as he sifts through the available evidence before reaching his verdict on what really happened.

Ruddick’s investigations and conclusions occasionally take great leaps of faith, but nonetheless I raced through the book, eager to find out whodunnit according to his theories.

What really got me though, was the revelation that women of the higher classes were known to drug their husbands’ alcohol, when said husband habitually drank too much and became violent with it. The drug, antimony, was highly poisonous, but when used very sparingly it induced sickness or a deep sleep. This wasn’t something I had ever considered before, but as I read it I found myself thinking, but of course they did.

Ruddick also posited and then dismissed the idea that women did the same to control how often their husbands were able to share their beds. I wasn’t able to dismiss the idea so quickly as he did – to me it seems perfectly logical that in an age where death in childbirth was common and the miscarriage rate was high, women in such marriages would use any means at their disposal to save their health. Why would you drug your husband to stop him beating you, but still allow him open access to intimacy when another pregnancy might kill you?

From then on I found myself questioning all of his conclusions. Perhaps I’m blinded by my own agenda, much as I feel Ruddick was blinded by his. Nonetheless, though, an interesting read, and a fascinating window into the life of a very unhappy woman, and a timely reminder of the position of women in Victorian society.

Come to your own conclusions and try the book here.

Not For the Faint Hearted

Sometimes, I really resent being squeamish. As an adult, without having to worry about weekly biology class and the embarrassment of having to be excused or risk fainting, I sometimes forget how squeamish I still am. After all, I’m one of those hard people who can watch Bones (although not necessarily while eating). I can do anything.

Except… I can’t. I didn’t take History or English Lit at A Level because I knew the syllabus and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through without chucking up. Being squeamish means that I can’t take a first aid course at work, and that I almost passed out in a manual handling training course. I hate it. It’s embarrassing, at least partly psychosomatic and, when I’m feeling particularly bitter, directly responsible for any problem I’ve ever had, ever.

But let us not dwell! Let us instead consider my current quandary. Do I buy these disgusting but beautiful books?

Click through to look inside!

One thing that I am a lot better at now than when I was younger, is my ability to approach gore and general innards on my own terms. Some pictures of carpal tunnel surgery came up on my Pinterest feed the other day (Why though, Pinterest!?), and I was fascinated! But put me in a room with other people and no escape route and I’ll crawl under the desk in a cold sweat.

As I’m writing this, it seems like a childhood trauma I’m not over, and that just I need a good bit of therapy. Well, sure, that’s probably correct. I should get that sorted. Or, I could buy these beautiful gross pieces of art and avoid parts of my own house if they get too much.

I’m not just wondering whether or not to risk making myself sick on a whim. I will probably need these for my research, and look at them. They are a chronicle of some of the most important drawings in history. They are part of the journey we have taken to get to where we are today.

So I probably will buy them.

Just not yet.

What about you? Are you fascinated by your fears? How far do you push yourself to conquer them?

In other news, I still haven’t finished the book I was going to review. But! I started another one! Reviews back up next week… I’m going to be talking about Death at the Priory, Sex and Murder in Victorian Englandby James Ruddick. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you think!

Captured Shadows

REVIEW – Beyond the Dark Veil : Post Mortem and Mourning Photography from the Thanatos Archive – Jacqueline Ann Bunge Barger

Grief is an odd and difficult thing. Until recently I was lucky enough not to have lost anybody close to me, and when I did, the raw rip of grief was something I struggled to understand even as it devastated me. It isolates you in your pain, and yet it unites you with every human in history.

Never has every human in history felt closer than when reading this collection of Victorian Post-Mortem and Mourning Photography, from the Thanos Archive.

It's impossible to do justice to this glossy, golden, embossed beauty of a book in a photograph

It’s impossible to do justice to this glossy, golden, embossed beauty of a book in a photograph

This is a beautiful volume, the kind that is a pleasure to hold in your hands as you run gentle fingertips over the shallow embossing on the cover. I really felt it was a thing of great importance before I even opened it – a feeling which only grew as I read, going through all 200 thick pages in one sitting and almost breaking my own heart.

There’s a theory I’ve always liked, that when you die, you live on for as long as there is somebody to remember you. You survive in memory, if not in spirit, which is one thing which makes this collection of Victorian mourning photography so hauntingly beautiful. By locking eyes with the long past dead or nearly dead, do we resurrect their souls, allowing them to live on for as long as we remember them?

Probably not. But the theatre of Victorian mourning is something beautiful, and the culmination of habits humanity has refined over millennia. These traditions, as explained in this hefty tome, fell out of favour during the first and second World Wars, when so many died it would have been too much mourning for society to take, and the fear was it would break the nation’s spirit.

For a book mainly comprised of high quality prints, it’s an absolute trove of information, and I gleaned four pages of notes from my read-through. I always think it’s easier to learn fact by reading fiction or watching a documentary – something immersive rather than dry – and this largely picture-based book had the same sort of effect. It’s learning by osmosis rather than forcing facts into your brain and hoping they stay there.

This post has been a real struggle to write. Nothing has flowed as it should, and I know I haven’t done this book justice. It was the most powerful and moving thing I have ever read, and several times during my read-through I wondered why I was putting myself through it. It isn’t necessary to immerse myself in so much death. Perhaps it isn’t wise, either. But the more I learn, the more fascinated I am by the culture which surrounds it, and the history of people’s association with death. It fascinates us all, it is the great unknown. The tradition with which we surround death is the culmination of millennia of trying to understand what we can never hope to.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly. It isn’t an easy read, but there is something to be said about confronting your own mortality in so forthright a manner. Similarly, there is something oddly comforting about seeing the preserved memories of those who had been so loved, still showing that love after over a century later. Like these 200+ people, perhaps we will not be forgotten, even when those who knew and loved us have long since passed.

Find Beyond the Dark Veil on

Little Belgians and Moustachioed Victorians

REVIEW: Death on a Branch Line – Andrew Martin

Last month I bought myself the complete box set of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Not only had nobody thought to buy me them previously (!) but this formed a very important part of my *research*.

The research period of any novel or series is an odd one. It’s extremely flexible in terms of what you (I) can justify as research. For instance, I am going to write mysteries set in Victorian Leeds, so I am researching plot structure, and the time period. So I can binge watch 6 episodes of Poirot and justify it as working, even if I’ve made my way through the best part of a bottle of wine while I was at it. I’m looking at the structure, darling.

OK, I admit this is stretching it, but my goodness, Poirot is cracking good fun. David Suchet is tremendous as the little Belgian, and I’ve reignited my childhood crush on Captain Hastings (he’s just so nice, why don’t the ladies like him!?). Not to mention the tour de force that is Miss Lemon, my secretarial idol.

And this happened, taking one of the top spots of "Best things that have ever happened in my life, ever ever".

And this happened, taking one of the top spots of “Best things that have ever happened in my life, ever ever”.

In fairness to myself, I have learned a lot about character development from these binges, come to a few realisations on plotting and structure, and on what works for me and doesn’t. Which is great – just think how much I’ll learn watching the remaining 40+ episodes! Oh yes, Poirot is exercising my little grey cells. Also discovered through the wonderful medium that is Twitter that Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings) has a thriller coming out soon.

But my research hasn’t solely comprised of Poirot. Even I can’t justify that. It’s also extended to a Victorian mystery, Death on a Branch Line.

One scorching day in York Train Station, Jim Stringer, railway detective, finds himself in conversation with a condemned man. Not convinced of the man’s guilt, Jim believes him when he warns of another death in the offing at his home, in the isolated village of Adenwold. In the company of his wife, Lydia, and in the middle of a scorching heatwave, Jim takes to the rails to investigate.

Come to think of it, I can't recall if he's described as moustachioed in the text, but who doesn't like a blushing Victorian?

Come to think of it, I can’t recall if he’s described as moustachioed in the text, but who doesn’t like a blushing Victorian?

Now then. This was really, really good. A character-driven mystery which was genuinely perplexing and chocka with historical detail. There’s a quote on the back that aligned it with a BBC serial, and that is exactly how it was. A three parter around Christmas, perhaps? Come on, BBC! Get to it!

Perhaps the reason this hasn’t happened yet is one of the main reasons I liked it. Liberal amounts of swearing. 

And it works. This is written first person, from Jim’s PoV, and all that swearing sounds completely natural. A railway detective working on a difficult case in a heatwave would be dropping F-bombs all over the place.

Even better than the liberal amounts of swearing (and I never thought I would write those words) was the wonderful and three-dimensional portrayal of Lydia, Jim’s wife. This is particularly notable given that she is referred to as Lydia about three times, and all the rest as “the wife”. She’s a suffragette, which Jim is tolerant of, but doesn’t understand, and absolutely pivotal in the solving of the case. And here’s the thing, Jim treats her as you’d fully expect a railway detective to treat his wife. He assumes she’s wrong about things and is speaking out of turn, while at the same time being very proud of her, very much in love with her, and not a little bit in awe. What I was left with was the impression of a woman who I admired, and wanted to know more about. This is one book in a Jim Stringer series, and I will read more only because I want to know more about Lydia.

I’m not sure what made me pick this up in the first place, because I have a “railways are boring” mentality, but this book actually made railways interesting to me. Perhaps I don’t just like lady books after all…!

Find on here…

200 Litres Of Atmospheric Air

REVIEW: Premature Burial: How It May Be Prevented – Walter Hayden, William Tebb & Edward Perry Vollum

I always have a hard time visualising units. Take 200 litres of air. That’s, what – 100 two litre bottles of Vimto? How much does that look like? It seems like a lot (particularly of Vimto), but let me tell you this, when it comes to atmospheric air, it is not enough.

I have this thing about running out of air. I hate video game levels where they’re underwater and you have to swim through an air bubble before Sonic dies. Not that I mind so much when Sonic dies, because he’s extremely annoying. Still, though. Every time the clock starts to tick down I feel claustrophobic, my chest gets tight and I start to hold my breath without realising. I even do it in that bit in Finding Nemo when they’re above water. What the hell, Katherine!?

In spite of all this, Premature Burial: How It May Be Prevented seemed to me like a good read – my idea of a fun time. And don’t get me wrong, it was. It’s a contemporary Victorian report with a rash of examples of people being mistaken for dead and buried alive.

And it is so very chilling.

Warning to bat fans - image not indicative of content. Sad lack of bats in the text.

Warning to bat fans – image not indicative of content. Sad lack of bats in the text.

This book is a collection of anecdotes and newspaper clippings from throughout the nineteenth century, about people who gave every appearance of being dead but, in fact, were still alive. There are some incredible descriptions of people saved from an early grave just in the nick of time, and an equal or greater number of discoveries that happened just too late. And that’s only the ones who were discovered. Here’s the thing – you are highly diverted until you remember, these are (purportedly) true accounts. Then the air seems a little thin.

So I’m now actively concerned about being buried alive. A very real risk when you appear to be dead but are in fact not, which clearly happens all the time.

I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t been used more in fiction – and it hasn’t in any of the Gothic mysteries I’ve come across – but I can’t help but think that if it had, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’d have tossed the book aside with a snort of derision and been a little bit cross about it for a couple of days.They expected me to believe that, I’d have scorned, and I would have been wrong to do so. It’s one of those instances where truth is stranger than fiction, which is a shame because I’d quite like to use it in a book. Perhaps in passing, rather than as a major plot point? What do you think, would you believe it?

The 200 litres mentioned in the intro was relevant – it’s the average amount of air you have when you’ve been sealed in a coffin, and it will last you 20-40 minutes. Which is more than I’d expect, but nowhere near enough.

I’m immersing myself in this death stuff, not just for morbid kicks but because I’m researching Victorian mortuaries and funeral practices for t’next book series. I’m finding it difficult to get information on some of the more nitty-gritty aspects, like body preservation. I know all about jet beads and crape, but I’m struggling finding out the more medical aspects. Any sources you’ve come across, I’d love to hear about! I think a trip to Thackray Medical Museum is in the offing…

Find Premature Burial: How It May Be Prevented on…

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