Mr Briggs’ Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain’s First Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun

Reviewed by Stefanie Rosenboom

I started reading Mr Briggs’ Hat with great enthusiasm, because murder mysteries and especially true crime have always interested me. It soon became clear that the book is no ordinary work of non-fiction. The amount of details mentioned in every single paragraph is staggering, from court cases to eye-witness accounts Kate Colquhoun can certainly be said to be meticulous about details.

The fact that it is the first railway murder in history means that it was well documented as well as being feverishly covered by the sensationalistic press at the time.The long list of ‘select biography’ makes the book read like a well worked research paper and in fact that is just what the book ends up as in my opinion. It crosses the line from being non-fiction literature to PhD thesis by the sheer volume of research incorporated in every sentence. Out of curiosity I went to the university library to reference check some of her notes. Her work is accurate to the T, however the “conclusion jumping” or “filling in character’s opinions” by adding her own ideas based on her research will ultimately topple it back to the non-fiction literary section. The book in itself is an enjoyable read for those interested in Victorian law enforcement or court proceedings, but might be a bit much for the true-crime reader who doesn’t want to be bogged down by paragraphs full of descriptions. Fair warning, it is no easy read and will make you replay certain scenes in your head like a Victorian CSI episode. I tip my hat to Kate for doing such great detective work, for her search to piece together this entire case in the form of a book almost supersedes the detective work Scotland Yard had to do to put together this case in the first place.

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