Noted Murder Mysteries by Marie Belloc Lowndes

Classic crime of all types has been turning out to be a bit of a lifesaver here on the Ramblings lately. Whether it’s the time of year, the fact that Real Life is screamingly busy, or because trying to read “Berlin Alexanderplatz” was a bit of a disaster, I’ve just found myself looking backwards to Golden Age Crime; or in this case, some real life crime cases from the past!

Marie Belloc Lowndes is a name I’d come across before; I have her classic novel “The Lodger” sitting on the TBR, and I’ve meant to pick it up on several occasions. However, when Mike Walmer kindly offered me a review copy of Lowndes’ “Noted Murder Mysteries”, I just couldn’t resist. It’s the fifth release in his Belles-Lettres series (I’ve reviewed several titles from this in the past), and was a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining read.

“Noted…” contains eight essays by Lowndes on famous crimes of her era. Some cases were familiar to me, such as the Charles Bravo affair (I’ve read and reviewed a fascinating book about it on the Ramblings) and the Madeleine Smith case; others, like the murder of poor Hippolyte Menaldo, were completely new to be me. However, all were gripping, engrossing and often dark stories, and the book made compelling reading. Lowndes is a natural storyteller, relating the events as if they were exciting fiction rather that dull fact. And what adds so much to the book is the verve with which Lowndes tells her tale; she ramps up the tension and the drama while she relates these tragic stories, and she’s often partisan about the outcome.

It’s worth pointing out that Lowndes chooses to retell a particular type of crime story; all of these murders are what you would call crimes of passion, motivated by romantic emotions or sexual obsessions, and a significant number of them take place in France. Something as sordid as Jack the Ripper does not make an entry here; instead, she focuses on crimes of the domestic, of emotional betrayal, misplaced devotion and the consequences of social disgrace. Interestingly, though, her novel “The Lodger” (which I mentioned earlier in this post) was published a year before “Noted…” and drew on the Ripper case!

However, Lowndes obviously had a wonderful talent for storytelling; she had me very much invested in the characters and their fates, so much so that I regularly ended up heading online to see what the modern take was on some of the cases. Several have their own Wikipedia page, and on the whole it seems that Lowndes’ reading of the facts was often spot on. However, some of the names and crimes seem to have slipped into obscurity, so this is a welcome re-release which brings these stories back into circulation. And as the blurb says, some of these cases have remained mysteries to this day – I do love a good mystery, and “Notable…” does not disappoint on that front!

I don’t know how you could *not* want to race into a book that says this when you open the cover!! ;D

It’s perhaps a little odd that I should find relief from the darkness of Weimar Berlin in the darkness of crimes of passion; but maybe that last word is the clue here. All of Lowndes’ stories are about people consumed by emotions and passions, and those very human feelings are something to which I could really relate.

So my reading mojo returned strongly thanks to this book, which turned out to be the perfect antidote to the struggles I’d been experiencing. Marie Belloc Lowndes – who was interestingly the elder sister of Hilaire Belloc – was obviously a formidable talent in her own right and kudos to Michael Walmer for bringing this work of hers back into print – highly recommended! ๐Ÿ˜€