Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster

September 2017

4/5 stars. The lead characters are well-portrayed and engaging as their relationship develops and struggles with the strict morals and codes of class and love in Victorian Glasgow.

Description

The young Scottish socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith was swept off her feet by Pierre Emile L’Angelier. She thought him handsome, charming, attentive. However, things soon soured between the pair.

However, once he had seduced her, he became controlling, manipulative. While she tried desperately to withdraw from the toxic and abusive relationship he started blackmailing her; threatening to expose her indiscretions to her family and her new fiancé which would have ruined her within her strict, Victorian era society.

She felt trapped, desperate even. Suddenly, the threats were silenced by his unexpected death.

Did Madeleine Smith murder Pierre Emile L’Angelier or did he commit suicide?

For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?

This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857.

My thoughts

There’s something pleasurable and fascinating in getting under the skin of a true crime story to discover the events, background and characters behind the names on the court register.

In this case, the journey of working class dreamer and social climber, Emile L’Angelier, spurned twice before and determined not to be rejected again, takes us to Glasgow in the 1850s where he meets Madeleine Hamilton Smith, daughter of a well-to-do architect. Their troubled relationship is brought to life from a series of letters exchanged between the two, revealing the issues and challenges they faced at the time.

This is a well-researched story, brought to life with a fine eye for detail and nuance. The lead characters are well-portrayed and engaging as their relationship develops and struggles with the strict morals and codes of class and love in Victorian Glasgow.

The author’s review of the case and evidence allowed us to compare notes and review some of the factors in more detail, adding to my enjoyment.

If you like a glimpse of the past and a story filled with passion, conflict and engaging characters, all based on real events, then look no further.

4/5 stars

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