Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen

Prologue

"The innocent and the beautiful
have no enemy but time."

W.B. Yeats

Curtain up on...

Swirling midnight fog, flickering gas lamps, raucous music halls, a body buried in the cellar, a chase across the Atlantic and a murder committed in the name of Cupid.

The tale of Dr. Crippen bears each and every one of these trademark signatures of the classic English whodunit. It is a magnetic tale of death and love, sin and virtue. While stereotypical in nature, it is set apart from the ordinary by the motive of its crime, Freudian in nature and, in fact, reminiscent of the Jekyll/Hyde syndrome that fascinated period writers.

"There are two sides of the story the physical, which is sordid, dreadful and revolting, and the spiritual, which is good and heroic," writes Filson Young, editor for the "Notable British Trial Series," which published the Trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen a decade after the sensational murder and subsequent trial occurred. "Such a story can only be understood by the aid of the imagination; and it should remind us, in the judgments we pass on our fellow men, never to forget the dual nature of the human character and the mystery in virtue of which acts of great moral obliquity may march with conduct above the ordinary standards."

Following is, in essence, a melodrama in seven "acts," tracing the events leading up to and after one of Edwardian London's most publicized crimes and, definitely, one of the most colorful of the Twentieth Century.

Its cast of characters includes a lovelorn murderer, his wicked wife, a demure heroine, a sharp-as-a-tack Scotland Yard detective and a sleuth-playing sea captain.

Certain histrionics have been very slightly altered, for effect, but the nature of the crime its mechanics, its motive, its chronology and its results remain intact. Certain patches of dialogue have been constructed to explain a character's inner thoughts and devices. But, the personalities involved, in all their societal and anti-societal form, are as they were.

Merry Old London, ca 1910
Merry Old London, ca 1910

 

 

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