The detective writers of the 1920s and 1930s weren’t working a vacuum. They took a keen interest in the crimes of their time, often weaving elements from actual murder cases into their plots or referencing them directly. And there was one case, a murder both infamous and domestic, that interested the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Anthony Berkeley more than any other.
This real life murder mystery has everything: a body hidden in the cellar, adultery, a transatlantic steamship pursuit, cross dressing, and a pleasingly ambiguous ending. It was referenced in novels more than any other by the detective writers of the golden age, and did a great deal to shape the genre as we know it today.
This is the story of Dr Crippen.
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Books referenced in order of appearance:
—Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell
—Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
—The Wychford Poisoning Case by Anthony Berkeley
—Mrs McGinty’s Dead by Agatha Christie
—Malice Aforethought by Frances Iles (aka Anthony Berkeley)
—The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
—“The Lernean Hydra” in The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
—The Case with Nine Solutions by J. J. Connington
—The House That Berry Built by Dornford Yates
—Henbane by Catherine Meadows
—Dancing for the Hangman by Martin Edwards
You can find a full transcript of this episode at shedunnitshow.com/crippentranscript.