Format Hardcover
Publication Date 11/06/18
ISBN 9781681778716
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 448

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A Tale of Two Murders

Guilt, Innocence, and the Execution of Edith Thompson

Laura Thompson

A riveting account of the notorious “Ilford murder” by the New York Times bestselling author of The Six

The death penalty is never without its ethical conflicts or moral questions. Never more so than when the person being led to the gallows may very well be innocent of the actual crime, if not innocent according social concepts of femininity.

A Tale of Two Murders is an engrossing examination of the Ilford murder, which became a legal cause ce´le`bre in the 1920s, and led to the hanging of Edith Thompson and her lover, Freddy Bywaters. On the night of October 3, 1922, as Edith and her husband, Percy, were walking home from the theatre, a man sprang out of the darkness and stabbed Percy to death. The assailant was none other than Bywaters.

When the police discovered his relationship with Edith, she—who had denied knowledge of the attack—was arrested as his accomplice. Her passionate love letters to Bywaters, read out at the ensuing trial, sealed her fate, even though Bywaters insisted Edith had no part in planning the murder. They were both hanged. Freddy was demonstrably guilty; but was Edith truly so?

In shattering detail and with masterful emotional insight, Laura Thompson charts the course of a liaison with thrice-fatal consequences, and investigates what a troubling case tells us about perceptions of women, innocence, and guilt.

A writer and freelance journalist, Laura Thompson won the Somerset Maugham award for her first book, The Dogs, and is also the author of the critically acclaimed biography of Nancy Mitford, Life in a Cold Climate. Her most recent book, The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters, was a national bestseller.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"Thompson earnestly champions the lost cause of Edith Thompson, a woman caught in an awkward moment of history." Marilyn Stasio New York Times Book Review
"Part of what is wonderful about this book is the clear disdain with which the author tends to write of the social conventions that existed then and that still live with us now. But more than that, and what makes the book most exciting, is Thompson's admiration of Edith as a writer in her own right." NPR
"Thompson provides the definitive look at a British cause célèbre in this riveting and multifaceted study of the notorious Thompson-Bywaters murder. Thompson’s detailed description of prevailing attitudes about the role of women in British society gives the book a broader social relevance than most true crime books." Publishers Weekly
"An exhaustive look into the passionate love affair that led to one of the most infamous murders in 1920s England. Moving beyond the standard courtroom drama. his meticulously researched account of a fatal love affair carefully questions the nature of guilt and capital punishment in polite society, offering up a more profound lesson than is likely to be found in a typical true crime novel." Kirkus Reviews