A Victorian murder. A Victorian madman. A modern judgment.
Gateshead, April 1866. The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane takes the forgotten case of a child murder in 1866 as a springboard to delve deeply into the pysche of the Victorians. What Jane Housham finds in this exploration of guilt, sexual deviance and madness is a diagnosis that is still ripe for the challenging and a sentence that provokes even our liberal modern judgment.
Set around Gateshead, it is a revelatory social history of the North - an area growing in industry and swelling with immigration, where factory workers are tinged blue and yellow by chemicals, the first tabloids are printed, children are left alone by working parents and haystack fires sweep the county in rebellion against the introduction of the police force.
Into this landscape a five-year-old Irish girl named Sarah Melvin sets out over the fell to look for her father, and a troubled young man makes a frightening leap of logic to save his own skin. Told here for the first time, this is an extraordinary story of sexual deviance and murder. In lively, empathic prose, Jane Housham explores psychiatry, the justice system and the media in mid-Victorian England to reveal a surprisingly modern state of affairs.
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Awful in my opinion
Excellent, if harrowing at times