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September 12 , 2010

Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic


In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arse-nic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

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The “Maybrick Mystery” had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumors of gambling and debt; and tor-rid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous in-fidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his de-mise? Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, “Did she kill him?”

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