In 1856, a baying crowd of over 30,000 people gathered outside Stafford prison to watch the hanging of Dr. William Palmer, “the greatest villain that ever stood in the Old Bailey” as Charles Dickens once called him. Palmer was convicted of poisoning and suspected in the murders of dozens of others, including his best friend, his wife, and his mother-in-law—and cashing in on their insurance to fuel his worsening gambling addiction. Highlighting his gruesome penchant for strychnine, the trial made news across both the Old World and the New. Palmer gripped readers not only in Britain—Queen Victoria wrote of “that horrible Palmer” in her journal—but also was a different sort of murderer than the public had come to fear—respectable, middle class, personable—and consequently more terrifying. But as the gallows door dropped, one question still gnawed at many who knew the case: Was Palmer truly guilty?
The first major retelling of William Palmer’s story in over sixty years, The Poisoner takes a fresh look at the infamous doctor’s life and disputed crimes. Using previously undiscovered letters from Palmer and new forensic examination of his victims, journalist Stephen Bates presents not only an astonishing and controversial revision of Palmer’s life but takes the reader into the very psyche of a killer.
So its an actual history book, which is odd for this blog, but I do this because I love history and I think if you are a fan you do too. So hopefully this will be an enjoyable experience for all of us.
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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.