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.
Oh I LOVED this. Deeply atmospheric, beautifully written with a sense of place and character that really dug deep.
Based on a true story, Elizabeth Haynes takes us through the last days and death of Harriet Monckton, explores the deep seated habits and motivations of all those around her, in an absolutely gripping and richly descriptive historical novel that is hard to put aside once started. It is at turns an addictive mystery and a memorial of this forgotten girl and her forgotten child, as such it is a wonderful yet melancholy read.
Considering the lack of actual information about this case, the vivid recreation of the possibilities is absolutely stunning and randomly heart breaking. Capturing an era within the pages, with all the social hierarchy, the position of women in that world, the utter hypocrisy that went with it, this is both a clever, intelligent crime novel and a snapshot of history. With an unexpected finale and a completely fascinating journey towards it, The Murder Of Harriet Monckton is one of my books of the year.
Read the novel, read the Afterword, absorb this one into your psyche. It deserves all the accolades.
Follow the Tour!