The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable by Carol Baxter

The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable

John Tawell was a sincere Quaker but a sinning one. Convicted of forgery, he was transported to Sydney, where he opened Australia’s first retail pharmacy and made a fortune. When he returned home to England after fifteen years, he thought he would be welcomed; instead he was shunned.Then on New Year’s Day 1845 Tawell boarded the 7:42 pm train to London Paddington. Soon, men arrived chasing a suspected murderer – but the 7:42 had departed. T...

Details The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable

TitleThe Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable
Release DateSep 5th, 2013
PublisherOneworld Publications
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Mystery, Biography Memoir

Reviews The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable

  • Melki
    Well...I DID ask for this. I entered the giveaway, and I won.BUT...Both the title of the book AND the contest's description led me to expect something different:"Fans of Erik Larson’s true-crime thrillers will be pleased by this gripping account that presents a tipping point in the public acceptance of the telegraph: its use in 1845 to alert the authorities in London that a murder suspect had boarded a train headed there."See... I was expecting...
  • El
    This review is of a book won from Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program.In 1845, a woman was found dead and the suspect, a man dressed as a Quaker, was on the run. Unluckily for the suspect, the electric telegraph was being used experimentally by the Great Western Railway. It was due to the communication between stations that the suspect was apprehended.The Quaker in question was John Tawell, and this book is about his apprehension, the trial-of...
  • Jane
    On New Year’s Day 1845 a message was sent along the telegraph wires laid beside the railway tracks between Slough and Paddington stations:“A murder has just been committed at Salt Hill and the suspected murderer was seen to take a first-class ticket for London by the train which left Slough at 7:42 p.m. He is in the garb of a kwaker.”(The early two-needle telegraph had no letter ‘q’.)A man was apprehended; a man with an extraordinary st...
  • Brian Clegg
    I was interested to read this book as I had referred to the use of the telegraph to send information on an alleged murderer ahead of his rail journey from Slough to London in one of my books, but had only known about this aspect of the case, where Carol Baxter concentrates mostly on the details of the legal case and subsequent execution.It's a book that is worth reading, but doesn't quite do what it sets out to achieve. It's rather too long for t...
  • Jeffrey Bloomfield
    Although the murderous activities are closely noted by all nationalities of their own, be they native born or immigrant, Great Britain has a reputation for being the most famous (or infamous if you will) having this national habit. Just go to England and sooner or later you hear remarks of people about Dr. Crippen or Jack the Ripper, or more recent individuals like Reginald Christie of 10 Rillington Place. But certain figures drop into a kind of ...
  • Penny
    2.5"John Tawell was a sincere Quaker but a sinning one" - he was indeed! He seemed to have no difficulty in reconciling his Quaker views with also being a criminal (transported to Sydney at one point), a fornicator and possibly even a murderer...........The Quaker outfit implied religious piety and was distinctive in Early Victorian England. This plus his very ordinariness made people make snap judgements that he couldn't possibly be a 'bad man'....
  • Lola
    A very detailed true-crime story set in the Victorian era. The title is rather misleading, as the telegraph is a fairly small part of the story, although it was instrumental in capturing the suspect. The science of forensic toxicology is a much larger and more interesting part of the story. The author also gives us an interesting window into the mind-set of the times, into the views of Quakers, and the mind and motives of the suspect himself.The ...
  • Tomi
    "Had it not been for the murder of a simple young woman in 19th Century England, we might not have the Internet today..." is how I would have started a lecture on improvements in communications technology in my AP Modern European History class a few years ago. This book would have been invaluable in preparing such a lesson! It is a fascinating study - nonfiction that reads like a novel - of the beginning of the electric constable (telegraph) and ...
  • Kyrie
    The title and the book don't mesh. Yes, it is about how a telegraph helped capture a criminal, but like a lot of othes have commented, the story isn't really about the telegraph. By the time the telegraph came up again in the end, I'd pretty much forgotten about it. The whole story was like that - lots of little rabbit trails that were interesting, but wandered from the main story. I know a iittle now about Quakers, transport of prisoners to Aust...
  • Bill Tyroler
    Anyone who watched “The Borgias” on Showtime knows that in an earlier time poison was a favored means of dispatching adversaries without detection. “Doubtless it is an exaggeration, but it has been said of this period that poisonings were so common that few believed in the natural deaths of princes, kings, or cardinals.” ( Arsenic was the poison of choice because it was so hard to detect. But as t...
  • Gisela Parker
    If half-stars were an option, this would be a solid 3.5. There are plenty of elements for a fascinating, enjoyable book: The story--an almost-perfect murder, with a criminal who would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that meddling telegraph!--is the perfect historical true crime story and John Tawell's backstory is captivating. However, the prose is a bit dry and meanders quite a bit. The amount of padding leading up to Tawell's e...
  • Diane
    It started well but was about 150 pages too long (and those were in the middle). Good writing but I thought it'd be focused on the communications revolution and in fact it was a courtroom drama and the beginnings of medical jurisprudence. Great if that's what you're looking for but not what I expected. So only 2 stars - well written just not as advertised.
  • Ronnie Cramer
    Prodigiously researched, but the author's long-winded writing style really wore me down; instead of savoring the book, I found myself anxious to get it over with so I could start something else.
  • Emg
    Another one of those "let's hook them with the title and throw in a saucy subtitle" books. Fortunately, the book itself was interesting.
  • Babs
    An interesting story albeit one that dragged a little in the middle. But Tawell certainly was an intriguing character.
  • Kathryn Price
    A very intriguing yet little-known historical tale of the first successful use of the telegraph. I had a tough time getting into and staying with the story...the writing felt a bit clunky and droning at times. But this book is chalk full of interesting information from this thrilling murder mystery in history that I had never heard, and it was quite fascinating to learn!
  • Sarah Beth
    I received a copy of this book as a giveaway on Goodreads. The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable is the true description of a Victorian murder case. John Tawell, a seemingly devout Quaker, stands accused of having murdered a young mother by poisoning her. This was the first case in which the electric telegraph was used in apprehending the suspect, and one of the earliest in which new scientific procedures were used to determine the presence...
  • Louise Wilson
    Carol Baxter's latest book 'The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable' is a genuinely interesting read.Carol is highly-regarded in Australia as a genealogical researcher. Some years ago she befriended me at the state archival offices in Sydney and encouraged me to become a self-published author of family histories, following in her own footsteps. Since then, Carol's writing horizons have continued to expand and she has achieved commercial succe...
  • Lynn
    Today’s nonfiction post is on The Peculiar case of the Electric Constable: A True Tale of Passion, Poison & Pursuit by Carol Baxter. It is 391 pages long including notes and an index. The cover is like a old time newspaper cover with a train in the center. There is no language, no sex, and no violence in this book. The story is told from newspaper articles, dairies, and other historical documents. The intended reader is someone who is intereste...
  • Karen
    When you don't read blurbs, or avoid coverage of a book that you know you're going to read eventually, some things can come as a considerable surprise. Things like THE PECULIAR CASE OF THE ELECTRIC CONSTABLE being a true story. The starting premise of the book is the speedy identification and capture of an alleged murderer by an early electric telegraph. If you think, however, that this is the whole point of the story, then you are going to be di...
  • My Book Addiction and More MBA
    THE PECULIAR CASE OF THE ELECTRIC CONSTABLE: A True Tale of Passion,Poison & Pursuit by CAROL BAXTER is a gripping tale of Victorian England. A Historical True Crime Thriller set in 1845 England. What a gripping tale of passion,murder,poison,a Criminal Quaker,and the dawn of a new age of information. The story of John Tawell... John, a Quaker,a possible murderer,who was transported to Australia for forgery some fifteen years prior to this story,h...
  • Christina Dudley
    From the title I expected a history of technology book--the telegraph examined through the lens of its effect on a particular murder case--but this book is more like Victorian true crime.Super interesting and well-written. A young mother of two is found dying, while an older man in Quaker garb makes his exit. What happened here? The rest of the book examines the case and backstory in great detail, touching on the life of transported convicts in A...
  • Jennifer
    I won a copy of this book from Goodreads FirstReads. Through a shipping mixup it took a really long time to get to me and I was excited when I finally got it because I LOVE the cover and the title and it's a fun feeling book to hold in your hands. Unfortunately as other reviewers have also mentioned, the title and the blurb on the back are pretty misleading. The part about he telegraph takes a couple of chapters at the beginning and then comes fu...
  • Alison C
    "The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable: A True Tale of Passion, Poison and Pursuit," by Carol Baxter, is a non-fiction account of a murder that occurred in Slough, England, on January 1, 1845. A man dressed as a Quaker was seen and heard in the vicinity, but he fled and boarded a train to London; however, use of the newly installed telegraph wires in Slough and at Paddington Station in London resulted in the man being traced, followed and s...
  • Fran Severn
    An interesting bit of history. A true tale of murder and science in Victorian England. John Tawell was apparently a sincere Quaker but with a bit of a less-than-sacred personality. Convicted of forgery, he was transported to Australia, where he opened the first retail pharmacy and made a fortune. But when he returned to England, expecting to be welcomed by his co-religionists, he was shunned. Too flamboyant, too egotistical, "too" generous, he st...
  • Stephanie
    Dragged in some places, but was very interesting in others. I think I expected more about the telegraph (since that's what's referred to in the title, after all), but really its role was extremely brief. I don't know why that annoyed me, but there you have it. The information about how murder trials were conducted in England in the mid-nineteenth century was what really interested me, along with the use of the nascent technology of forensic toxic...
  • Sarah
    Great page turner! I hadn't read anything about this book, and I suspect that's why so few people have rated it. I saw it at the library and picked it up the second time I saw it there. I'm not overly fond of the title or cover and although this murder case did bring the telegraph to the attention of the public, very little of the book is about the telegraph, which is fine with me. If you like true crimes of the nineteenth century, then I think y...
  • Ashley
    I won this book on Goodreads, and I'm glad I did! It's a true historical murder novel, about a Quaker who is arrested and tried for murder. What I liked the most was that occasionally I would forget I was reading a history book and would think I was deeply immersed in a fiction novel. This was a very good novel!
  • Deanne
    Interesting case but the book felt about 100 pages longer than it could have been. Mainly due to a great proportion of the story being dedicated to the prime character's life, from his youth to the trial.
  • Jane Walker
    It's a good read about a 19th century murder I hadn't come across before. It's told in meticulous detail. Two small things mar it for me. "Farewell" is not a transitive verb, Ms Baxter. And the confident psychoanalysis of the murderer at the end is out of place.