A woman murdered
A crime unsolved
A mystery that has lasted a century
The brutal murder of wealthy spinster Miss Jean Milne a hundred years ago shocked the country to its core. But for a century, the case has gone unsolved. Why was she tied up, tortured and brutally murdered? And who could have committed such a heinous crime?
To all appearances, Miss Jean Milne was the model of respectability, living a quiet life alone in her seaside mansion. But behind the façade, she had a secret life, her frequent trips to London masking a very different lifestyle. Now, using newly released evidence from police files and eyewitness testimony hidden for a century, Andrew Nicoll has brought the case back from the dead to reveal what really happened.
It's a shocking tale of class division, money, sex, lies, betrayal and murder. And, at last, after a hundred years, the curious death of Miss Jean Milne may finally have found a solution.
I love historical fiction and when I saw this book on Amazon, I was instantly attracted to the hauntingly beautiful cover depicting this mysterious lady going up the stairs, and I downloaded a copy. Now, years later, browsing through my library for something different to read, I came across this cover again and decided to finally give this book a go.
As I began to read, I immediately realised that I was reading a true story. This wasn't fiction at all, but a 100-year-old unsolved murder mystery. Miss Jean Milne, a wealthy spinster living alone in a huge mansion in Broughty Ferry (now a suburb of Dundee, Scotland), was found brutally murdered in the hall of her house in November 1912. Written from the pov of Sergeant John Fraser, one of the police officers investigating the case, this book takes out of mothballs and re-studies all the evidence gathered by the police at the time and the statements collected from the many witnesses who thought they've seen something on the night of the murder.
The author skilfully paints a rather vivid but at the same time bleak picture of life at the time. Thanks to his descriptions I really felt I went back in time by a century and could truly see Broughty Ferry, London and other places through the eyes of the various historical characters in the book. Andrew Nicoll spares no details in depicting the crime scene. We are told exactly how the poor woman was murdered, where she was found and in which position and from where the various items of evidence have been collected. It was as if I were there too, in the house, on the streets investigating. Some scenes are so well described in harrowing detail that I found myself wincing as I was reading, namely when the victim's body was removed from the crime scene and taken for the post-mortem. I have nightmares because of those scenes alone I can tell you. Yes, those images will remain with me for a long time, especially knowing that it was all for real, not just an invented story.
It seems that Miss Milne was a small, fragile lady who led and seemed to enjoy a solitary lifestyle with not even a maid or gardener ever setting foot in her huge house. She was a respectable lady devoted to church affairs. However she was known for her eccentric habits, pretending to be younger than she was and boasting of the various nice gentlemen she had some kind of intrigue going on with. She frequently left home for long periods of times, sometimes without telling anyone that she was leaving or where she was going. She loved to go to London, far away from the local gossip, where most probably she freely interacted with other strangers.
So, who could have killed Miss Milne? Was it one of these men she met in London and sometimes invited to her house? Or was it someone much closer to home? The case remains unsolved, and it's evident that, under the command of Chief Constable Sempill, even though extensive, the investigation left much to be desired, with important evidence not properly followed up or blithely overlooked. The author, however, seems to have made his own detection work and instead of ending the book with the murder unsolved, he has come up with, in my opinion, a very plausible but shocking solution. Could he be right? Could that really be the person who killed Jean Milne? Will we ever know the truth?
This was a great book that I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed reading and I highly recommend it.
After a brief stint as a lumberjack, Andrew Nicoll has spent his working life as a newspaper journalist. His first novel, The Good Mayor, was an international bestseller. Andrew is married with three children.