Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Case of The Poisoned Partidge by Diane Janes - reivew

Real life murder mysteries fascinate me,and I was intrigued when, many years ago, I read about the Chevis case of 1931. Lieutenant Hugh Chevis, and his wife of six months, Frances, sat down to a dinner of partridge. Soon, both were taken ill, and although Frances recovered, Chevis died. The partridge was poisoned with strychnine. Suspicions were increased by two bizarre telegrams connected with Chevis' death. One said "Hooray, hooray, hooray." Another said it was a mystery that would never be solved. And it never has been.

That was all I knew about the case until I read a new study of it by Diane Janes, published by The History Press. I must say that I was surprised and impressed that Diane had found out enough about the case to make a full-length book about it, but the first thing to say is that her research has been admirably exhaustive. She really does seem to have left no stone unturned, and the text is supplemented with very extensive footnotes.

A number of questions arise about the Chevis case. How did the strychnine get into the partridge - and could it have been an accident? Did both telegrams come from the same person, and did they have anything to do with the case, or were they simply the work of idle mischief-makers? Was Frances' former husband implicated in some way? And what about Frances, a woman with a penchant for marrying military men, - did she have something to hide? A genuine Golden Age mystery!

Diane Janes addresses all these issues in depth, and comes up with answers, some of which came as a genuine surprise to me .I don't want to include any spoilers in this post, so you will have to read the book to find out what Diane makes of the story of the Chevis family. This is a good example of intensive and original research into a notable mystery. With unsolved crimes, it is impossible to be certain about the truth, but Diane's conclusions are well and carefully argued, resulting in a thesis that must carry a lot of weight. The Case of the Poisoned Partridge is a significant addition to the annals of true crime. 


1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Oh, how intriguing. I find true crime stories like that very interesting, and especially so when the author does the kind of 'homework' that Diane Janes has done. Thanks for pointing us towards this.