True crime that “will appeal to readers interested in gaining an insight into the lives of women accused of murder in the mid 19th century” (Essex Family Historian).
For a few years in the 1840s, Essex was notorious in the minds of Victorians as a place where women stalked the winding country lanes looking for their next victim to poison with arsenic. Though that terrible image may not have much basis in truth, it was a symptom of an anxiety-filled time . . .
The 1840s were also known as the “hungry ’40s,” when crop failures pushed up food prices and there was popular unrest across Europe. The decade culminated in a cholera epidemic in which tens of thousands of people in the British Isles died. It is perhaps no surprise that people living through that troubled decade were captivated by the stories of the “poisoners”: that death was down to “white powder” and the evil intentions of the human heart.
Sarah Chesham, Mary May, and Hannah Southgate are the protagonists of this tale of how rural Essex, in a country saturated with arsenic, was touched by the tumultuous 1840s.
“Barrell’s meticulous research and eye for detail recreate lurking threats, and these scandalous true stories are as compelling as any crime fiction.” —History of War
“An intriguing read that brings a forgotten history to light and reveals past attitudes to women—and a national fear that gripped Victorian Britain.” —Family Tree Magazine
“This book will fascinate not only historians of true crime and those with an interest in genealogy but any reader seeking a story that would make Agatha Christie proud.” —All About History