Crippen: 2the Mild Murderer

Tom Cullen, Author Penguin Books $6.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-010942-9
In 1910, Hawley Harvey Crippen, a seemingly gentle American-born doctor turned patent-medicine quack, poisoned his wife, chopped off her head and limbs, removed her bones and buried her parts in the cellar of their London house. He told friends she'd gone to America suddenly; later, that she'd died in California. Six months passed, and he and Ethel LeNeve, his mistress (disguised as a boy), booked passage on a ship bound for Canada. Captured at sea and returned to England, Crippen pleaded not guilty but was convicted and executed. Cullen, a London-based criminologist and newspaper reporter, claims to be the first biographer to apply ``original research'' to correct much of the ``nonsense'' previously written about Crippen. Unfortunately, this investigation consists of speculations upon the obvious: ``Why did not Hawley leave his wife and live openly with Ethel?'' Instead of examining Crippen's life, Cullen focuses on secondary figures. In his tiresome, pedestrian prose, the author neglects the dramatic possibilities suggested by his subject. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
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