Poisened At The Priory – The notorious death of Charles Bravo by Antony M Brown #TrueCrime #ColdCaseJury

Poisened at the Priory


1876. When the newlywed barrister Charles Bravo ingests a rare poison, all evidence suggests suicide.

But in one of the most infamous inquests of all time, a coroner finds it to be an unlawful murder. So, we must ask, what is the truth?

The fourth book in Antony M. Brown’s popular Cold Case Jury series picks apart this notorious case that gripped Victorian Britain – and continues to spark debate to this day. Why did Bravo refuse any help, even when going through agonising pain? Was his wife, with her scandalous past, to blame? Or perhaps it was her former lover, eager to remove his usurper for good… or another sinister hand, moving silently?

In Poisoned at the Priory, Brown compiles the evidence and creates dramatic reconstructions of four main theories of how Charles Bravo may have died – including Agatha Christie’s solution, in her own words, for the very first time.

But was Christie correct? What’s your verdict in this spellbinding case?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

If you love murder mysteries, especially if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie type of novels, then this is a must read. This is a true crime novel and not a fictional tale so not knowing what the truth is in the end is both a blessing and a curse because you’ll never know if you were right. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this novel because I loved the role I was given as member of the Cold Case Jury, trying to make up my own mind about what happened to Charles Bravo. It might sound easy but it was anything but!

This novel is quite extensive, it first took me back in time to the events leading up to the fatal events and then plays out in great detail a few possible scenarios as to what might have happened. Bravo was married to Florence Ricardo née Campbell and only four months after their marriage he became ill and died a few days later of poisoning. Five doctors stood at his deathbed, called upon by his wife Florence, but he couldn’t be saved.

There are a lot of questions surrounding his death that kept my grey cells working overtime. The first question up for debate was how the poison was administered. Was it in the red wine at dinner, or in the water in his room? You would think that this would be easily determined but those were other times and it’s clear that they gave the patient all of their attention at the time but nobody was thinking of looking for evidence or getting to the bottom of it at the most crucial time so we’re looking at opportunity here most of all.

Even though you can’t even even be absolutely sure about this truth, I found this at least the easiest one to come to a conclusion. The hard work was yet to begin: did Bravo poison himself intentionally, or perhaps accidentally? There were statements made that support this if you believe the source. But there are also a number of murder theories to excite the reader involving Florence’s housemaid Jane Cox, Florence’s ex-lover Doctor Gully and Bravo’s wife Florence herself. Whose word to believe and who lied? I couldn’t make up my mind and needed someone else’s opinion.

And opinions I certainly received, none other than Agatha Christie herself offered her opinion on this mystery. Other doctors of that time expressed their opinions as well, and other authors who wrote about this case in the following years, as well as the author of the novel himself of course. There seem to be as many different opinions as people were asked. I loved reading what everyone’s thoughts were!

I know you want to ask me what I think and I’m actually torn between two very different scenarios.  Bravo’s behaviour was not entirely consistent, so I’m keeping Julian Fellow’s opinion also in mind. He actually turned this historical unsolved case into one of five episodes of a televised crime docudrama series in 2004. My main concern about my initial thought is that it was established he was poisened when he was still alive. If you don’t know who poisened you, wouldn’t you want to know who did it and point fingers at someone? He actually never did that, the five doctors would certainly have mentioned it when questioned, so that is weird. The only trouble is that I don’t see why he would take his own life, get rid of any evidence or not admit what he did while he was suffering so much, so I’m hesitantly inclined to consider a murder scenario as well.

Poisoned at the Priory is so perfect for a book club discussion. This novel has such food for thought and I think you could talk hours about it. After finishing the novel readers can cast their own verdict on a special site mentioned on the first page of the novel and see what other readers thought. I entered my own verdict and the rest of the jury is with me: 59% had the same thought and my runner-up scenario was good for the second largest percentage.

Poisened at the Priory is the fourth crime for the Cold Case Jury. The author has researched and substantiated this case thoroughly with witness statements, photos, expert opinions on the poison… and presented it in a very pleasant way to get through these facts (I thought it a great idea to start with the different scenarios and then follow up with evidence). This was an unexpected treat to read and I can’t wait to read the other books in this series!

I received a free paperback copy of this novel from the publisher Mirror Books. This is my honest opinion.


Educated by Tara Westover #BookReview

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Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.

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I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and I think it’s even my first memoir but I wanted to read this novel that features on many lists.

I have a basic knowledge of Mormonism but Tara’s family are quite extreme in their belief. They (the parents in any case) would rather die than consult a doctor or a hospital, as is proven after a few horrible accidents where more than one member of the family has severe injuries. But they believe medicine will poison your body and her father is on the front line in the war with the Illuminati who run the hospitals and all the government instances. The 7 children of the family are home schooled but don’t receive any actual schooling as they are put to work either in the kitchen with their mother preparing ointments or in the junkyard with their father. I could quite well imagine how the farm at Buck’s Peak looked and how she ran around like a feral child.

Her life seems set out in stone but then, along with two of her brothers, she decides to study on her own, take a test and enroll in college. You can imagine her father is not happy about this and it is the first tear in the family because as Tara’s world widens, she realises that she was never allowed an opinion, her fathers visions of the world could not be questioned, and now she starts to have her own thoughts and opinions.

Educated was a distressing novel to read. Not only are her parents so far removed from reality with their distorted vision (religious nuts comes to mind if I’m honest) Tara also suffers physical and emotional abuse from one of her brothers (not sexually thankfully but if he had it would be a sad conclusion that even that wouldn’t have changed anything in this story). Tara is already an outsider when she speaks up about her brother and it might be that that made their parents choice who to believe easier to make. Sadly, they don’t take her side and her other siblings are pressured into making the same choice. I felt the betrayal by her parents cutting very deep with me, and it frustrated me how she tries to reach out and mend things time and time again by returning home.

I loved seeing how she takes control of her life and not be dictated any longer by a voice without reason. I felt very disappointed in her parents, especially in her mother who lies to her and it is clear she knows very well what the real situation is. I saw the struggle and the pull of her family until the very last pages and it made me sad for her.

Educated is a powerful and thought provoking novel that I won’t easily forget.

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Breaking Dad by James Lubbock #BookReview

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Think you’ve got a dysfunctional family?
Meet mine.

For 18 years, my family lived a normal life in a respectable suburb…

Until one day, my dad gave up his successful career, and unexpectedly became Britain’s most wanted crystal meth dealer.

This is our story. At times shocking, often unbelievable, and all 100% true.

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Well then, this was quite the opposite of a dry and boring account about some drug baron. What a story! And to think it’s all true, you’d really think this could only be fiction at times. The beginning of James’ story alone is enough to hook any reader because his dad AND his mum each drop the big secrets they’ve kept for years on him on page 4 of the book already. They have nothing to do with drugs but as I see it, maybe the drugs were a consequence of this liberation for his father.

James Lubbock and Warren FitzGerald are great writers and I really liked the style the book was written in. James writes honestly and with such great wit about his life and his family. I can hardly believe we must be around the same age and that he had to deal with so much while I was hardly aware of the existence of drugs in a world far away from mine.

He doesn’t paint a picture of his father as a saint, he doesn’t make any excuses for him, and neither does he make him the biggest sinner there is, he’s just his dad who he loves with flaws and all. He shows his father’s ups and further along the line his downs too without flinching. I felt his worries, the care for his father and his reluctant acceptance that he couldn’t do anything more and that it would end badly for his father if he didn’t stop his drug habit and his dealing.

His father is certainly not the stereotype you might have in mind for a drug kingpin. He used to be an Earl Grey, opera loving father who didn’t smoke or drink and thought drugs were evil. He liked making deals and he was a good businessman though, so in hindsight it’s not even that big of a surprise that he saw an opportunity and tried to make money from it. He started small of course, but I guess he was quite good at doing business. I had to stop myself already halfway through this novel from googling and seeing the man in a picture for myself. But then I would also learn how it would end – although I had a fairly good idea about that already – and I wanted to see for myself how it would go.

There were 35 short and sweet chapters, most of them headed with a mono-syllabic chapter title that begged me for context and made me me want to dive right in and find out how they fit into the story. Even though Breaking Dad is a story of addiction and the becoming of a drug lord, you will never have read about a drug lord like this. It’s not like in the movies people, this is how it really is. Real people, real emotions, bad decisions… you’ll look at the headlines differently from now on, and with much more understanding for the person behind the headline and his family.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Mirror Books, in exchange for my honest opinion.

We Should All Be Mirandas by Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni #BookReview @HMHbooks

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We Should All Be Mirandas is a celebration of a certain redheaded lawyer and the legions of fans who relate to her pragmatic, no-bullshit approach to work, love, and sex. Written by two self-proclaimed Mirandas, this humorous manifesto distils Ms. Hobbes’ core principles into a strategic guide for navigating life’s inevitable ups and downs. In it, you’ll learn to:

Overcome your internalised Mirandaphobia
Cope with humiliating sexual encounters
Make Google Docs your bitch
Dump that Skipper that you’ve been dating
Embrace your bad hair days
…and so much more!

With sharp, sardonic humor and nods to the series’ most iconic moments, We Should All Be Mirandas is the perfect gift for fashionistas, pop culture mavens, and every woman who has dared to eat cake out of the garbage.

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star three and a half

I normally don’t read this type of non-fiction but I watched all the episodes of Sex and The City on tv many years ago and felt nostalgic. Didn’t we all secretly envy Carrie? Well did you ever stop to think that maybe you’re actually a Miranda and that being a Miranda is just as cool if not better than being a Carrie? Me neither but this little book made me change my mind radically.

The novel makes you appreciate the Miranda in you, hell it makes you love yourself a little more for whoever you are, and don’t we all need to be told once in a while that we’re amazing just the way we are (yep I do, that’s why I love Bruno Mars so much)? If you want to feel better about yourself, gloss up on that self-esteem a little bit, then this is just the medicine you need.

We Should All Be Mirandas was a fun novel and very easy to read, I made a zillion notes while reading this that I can’t possibly all share with you so you’ll have to read the novel yourself but I know you’ll be wondering ‘what is A Miranda’ exactly, and if you are one and if I am one) yourself ? Well in order to know if you are there’s a very easy to follow flow chart in the book that will give you an answer immediately. I did find out that I certainly do have some of Miranda traits (with a bit of a Charlotte rising) and I certainly know quite a few women who I recognise as a Miranda. I wonder how they’ll react when I tell them?

This cute little book takes the reader through every possible aspect you can think of, clothing advice, dating advice (types of men that can be a trap), career advice, travel, sex… well you name it and it’s covered. I found that the first part of the novel gave me a very good idea of a Miranda. These type of women are minimalists and go for natural make-up, they are blunt and sarcastic and have a mild distrust of the world, and Mirandas always wear clothes they feel comfortable in, no matter the look. In the section of types of sneakers a Miranda wears it is also clear that she wears them not as a fashion statement, but for comfort (unlike Carries). I can sooo find myself in that! Also, this one made me laugh out loud:

Mirandas have a tendency to accrue a freakish number of canvas totebags because totes have two qualities that Mirandas value very much: practicality and affordability. They’re cheap and can hold many things. Getting rid of them if they’re soiled and misshapen doesn’t happen though, one totebag is designated and all the old ones are stored inside. That’s just the Miranda way.

I also loved Mirandas take on How To Succeed in Bussiness. I’ll try to memorise the following words:

Those who put in the long, hard hours will gain a savviness that cannot be acquired by those who fake it till they make it.

I found the first part of the book to be really focused on being a Miranda, the second part was more common sense and some good advice for everyone who reads it. It’s composed of lots of How To’s and at the end of each section there are even great little recaps titled ‘What You Should Have Learned from This Chapter’. I really liked the tone of the novel and its non-judgemental way like whether you want kids or don’t want kids, each side gets support in its own self-depricating way. So what if there’s more risk of dying alone and being eaten by my own cat, as they say in the book, that’s a small price to pay for a life lived on my own terms :-).

I had a good few chuckles whilst reading this and it’s a great book to gift to a dear friend or to yourself. We Should All Be Mirandas is a novel for all women, certainly not only for Sex and The City fans!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Dead Years by Joseph Schupack #BookReview #Memoir #WWII @AmsterdamPB



Joseph Schupack has fulfilled a vow to those who did not survive: to write his Holocaust memoirs and offer a unique perspective on the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.

In The Dead Years, Joseph Schupack (1922 – 1989) describes his life in Radzyn-Podlaski, a typical Polish shtetl from where he was transported to the concentration camps of Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz, Dora / Nordhausen and Bergen-Belsen during the Second World War. We witness how he struggled to remain true to his own standards of decency and being human. Considering the premeditated and systematic humiliation and brutality, it is a miracle that he survived and came to terms with his memories.

The Dead Years is different from most Holocaust survivor stories. Not only is it a testimony of the 1930s in Poland and life in the Nazi concentration camps – it also serves as a witness statement. This Holocaust book contains a wealth of information, including the names of people and places, for researchers and those interested in WW2, or coming from Radzyn-Podlaski and surroundings. The book takes us through Joseph Schupack’s pre-war days, his work in the underground movement, and the murder of his parents, brothers, sister and friends.

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This memoir is not written in the format of a classic storyline but consists of short paragraphs about the various things Joseph Schupack remembered. The writing style is to the point and quite unflinching and since every paragraph is designed to focus on one specific memory, there’s a lot coming at you as a reader. The Dead Years is a book that’s shorter than my average reads with a total count of 209 pages, but I read it deliberately in a few sittings, simply because this memoir mustn’t be rushed and I felt I needed to take my time to let it all sink in.

It is not emotionally written though, there’s a distancing from what happened and most of the time the author doesn’t share his deepest grief or fears (many of his family die but he describes that too in only one or two paragraphs, then skips to something else) but don’t get me wrong, the events he had to live through are so harrowing, so atrocious and incomprehensible that I didn’t really need more emotion, you can feel his pain through the descriptions and his words.

I’ve read some books about WWII before and while I recognize the same torture and barbaric acts in the camps regardless of its location (it’s still incomprehensible how that could be so consistent wherever you were), I hadn’t read any accounts from survivers about the Majdanek extermination camp yet, or how you were already destined to be everyone’s scapegoat if you happened to be born a Jew in Poland pre-war. Long before the deportations began, life was already all about surviving. The reality was very grim. I read about all the Aktionen that were used, new rules coming in vigor each Friday, and how that deprived them of their freedoms, having to move house several times, giving up valuables, being forbidden to listen to the radio, or coming together at night, just to name a few. There’re a lot more abhorrent and wicked actions that were being undertaken at that time, and they didn’t all happen in the camps. The Dead Years certainly contributed to form a bigger picture of Poland’s landscape as he tells what is often unheard of. I also appreciated that Joseph Schupack told about the days and weeks that followed after the liberation. I was astonished that people in his home town were still holding on to this anti-semetic ideology.

Joseph Schupack was a strong man and his strong mind and a good dose of luck made him a survivor. Only the ending left me a bit sad though, it was a bit abrupt and the author seemed bitter for reasons that the reader can’t really comprehend because he didn’t elaborate but were about a life-long friendship which turned sour. I felt it was a bit of a shame those were the last words of his book (he listed 3 important dates/moments after that but that was more of an afterword).

The Dead Years was an unapologetic read, powerful and poignant. The cruelty of people has no limits and it’s hard to believe we’re the same species as the people who did all this. This book definitely left its mark.

I received a free paperback copy of this novel courtesy of Amsterdam Publishers. This is my honest opinion.