The Murderess and the Hangman
The Murderess and the Hangman
A Novel of Criminal Minds
The Murderess and the Hangman is the story of Kate Webster, a drunken maid who murdered her landlady and then impersonated her around London selling her belongings.
On October 22, 2010, a human skull was found in Sir David Attenborough's garden in south London...a middle-aged female skull. How did it get there? Where was the rest of the body?
The Murderess and the Hangman is a story of this murder, told from both sides of the scaffold. In 1879 William Marwood, 'gentleman hangman' for London and Middlesex, hanged 'callous murderess' Kate Webster. Her crime? The axe-murder of her landlady, Mrs. Julia Thomas, in the leafy suburb of Richmond, London.
With incredible guile, Kate Webster began physically impersonating her dead landlady around London. After viciously dismembering the body, she ceremoniously wore Julia's clothes and jewelry to trick buyers and capitalize on the crime. Kate tried to sell Julia's furniture, silver, even her body as turkey dripping! But for how long can she elude the hangman? Especially one she's already met....
Kate is clearly a killer and will kill again. But given William Marwood is a professional executioner for the Crown, is there any room for forgiveness or redemption? And how innocent is the hangman who coolly moves from one execution to the next? Who is the greater evil, the enraged maid, or the methodical 'humane hangman' who is 'just doing his job'?
Despite her violence, Kate is not without deep feeling, caring for her boy Daniel who is imprisoned in a 'school for pickpockets.' Similarly, Marwood is seemingly innocent and good, a quiet shoemaker from the village of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Despite his 'other job' as hangman for the expanding metropolis, he works to humanize hanging, inventing the 'long drop' to give his victims 'more than enough rope,' namely, a painless death. But can Marwood's cool, scientific mind and steady hand hide his passion for the feisty and salacious Kate.... What is his attraction to her? Who would be?
On the run from Covent Garden to Bartholomew Fair, The Murderess and the Hangman is a story of good and evil in the streets, pubs and prisons, in the dock and on the scaffold. Soon Kate is pursued by London's new police officers, the Bow Street Runners-Inspector Gil Sequin and Nimrod Jones-across London, and eventually Ireland, in order to bring her back to Marwood's gentle noose....
Here is a 'true horror' tale of crime and history, a detective story, and a notorious cause célèbre when Kate stood trial before the Old Bailey for 'willful murder'. Along with the crowds of 1879, Marwood saw her face the extreme penalty of the law 'at Her Majesty's pleasure'. But not before Victorian London is recreated with the sounds and smells of low-life survival, gallows humor and hard drink, especially the gin that addicted half the city's population. And Kate's killings were all for a few pieces of furniture....
Let the crimes begin!