A Dreadful Murder: The Mysterious Death of Caroline Luard
Oxford, Pan, 2013, 125p
I love the ease and fluidity of some of this years Galaxy Quick Reads. They are gripping and well written, and A Dreadful Murder is no exception.
Based on a true story, Walters short novel is about Caroline Luard, who is found with two bullet wounds in her head at her summerhouse in Kent. The last person who saw her was her husband, with whom she was taking a walk, and the first person to find her, several house later, is the same man. Naturally, suspicion falls to him, as the local working class vent their anger at this rich couple by creating rumours about affairs and marital disputes. There are few leads and many lies to unravel, as detectives from Scotland Yard attempt to solve this unusual case.
In reality, as Walters explains in her prologue, no murderer was actually found. It would appear that time was wasted by the police, mainly in validating Caroline's husbands whereabouts. Walters adaptation is well researched, with a good deal of poetic license - something to which she openly admits. She even encourages the reader to do their own research and draw their own conclusions.
But the crime story is still wonderful - full of suspicion and mystery with no clear solution. The novel is also partly political, with Walters creating a setting of class divide and social unrest. Set in 1908, very few of the characters are happy with their lot. The working class resent relying upon the rich for their charity. Crime is rife amongst many families. And women are given no freedom, they cannot work, and are trapped in loveless marriages. A Dreaful Murder is historical and political fiction, as much as a crime drama, which adds to the story, helping build drama.