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December 04 , 2010

Trials of Passion

Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness


This book journeys into the heart of dark passions and the crimes they impel. When passion is in the picture, what is criminal, what sane, what mad or simply bad?

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Brighton, 1870: A well-respected spinster infuses chocolate creams with strychnine in order to murder her lover's wife.

Paris, 1880: A popular performer stalks her betraying lover through the streets of the city for weeks and finally takes aim.

New York, 1906: A millionaire shoots dead a prominent architect in full view of a theatre audience.

Through court and asylum records, letters and newspaper accounts, this book brings to life a period when the psychiatric professions were consolidating their hold on our understanding of what is human. An increasingly popular press allowed the public unprecedented insight into accounts of transgressive sexuality, savage jealousy and forbidden desires.

With great story-telling flair, Lisa Appignanesi teases out the vagaries of passion and the clashes between the law and the clinic as they stumble towards a (sometimes reviled) collaboration. Sexual etiquette and class roles, attitudes to love, madness and gender, notions of respectability and honour, insanity and lunacy, all are at play in that vital forum in which public opinion is shaped - the theatre of the courtroom.

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