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The Damnation Of John Donellan by Elizabeth Cooke (Profile Books, £14.99)
THIS enthralling true story of a murder that took place in the late 1700s remained hidden until the author, doing research for a novel about the life of anatomist John Hunter, came across an account of it when she found that Hunter had been called to give evidence in a notorious court case.
Elizabeth Cooke tells us of Sir Theodosius Boughton of Lawford Hall in Warwickshire, who was a young man of 20 and soon to come of age, therefore inheriting the family Estate. He had been fishing, gone to bed and the following morning was given the medicine he took for his venereal disease.
Shortly after, he lay in agony and soon died. Anna Maria, his mother, was suspicious and rumours soon spread that her son-in-law Captain John Donellan, an Irish soldier and ex-employee of The East India Company, had poisoned Theodosius.
A gruesome autopsy then took place and an inquest held. A sham trial was held with varying and conflicting accounts, which eventually changed the face of legal history.
Much research has gone into this book that reveals the seedier side of wealthy Georgian society and the medical and legal practises of the day.
We are given some of the trial transcripts of evidence given by the family, servants, and medical practioners of the day which enables us to see what life was really like in the 18th century.
History lovers and those who like a mystery will be in their element reading this.