Few remember Florence Chandler Maybrick now, but her trial for murder was as famous and controversial as the OJ Simpson trial today. She was a young American socialite who married a wealthy Liverpudlian businessman, whom she was later accused of poisoning. (Dorothy Sayers later modeled Harriet Vane after Florence for her novel "Strong Poison"). But was Maybrick really an innocent victim--or the most famous serial killer of all time?
"The Ripper's Wife" is as melodramatic as a Victorian music hall production, and the writing as often subtle as a sledgehammer. But Purdy makes up for it with her eye for lush details, her depiction of inner turmoil, and her sense of humor as she chronicles Florence's slow, steady decline from fake riches to real rags.
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