The Damnation of John Donellan by Elizabeth Cooke
A Mysterious Case of Death and Scandal in Georgian England

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Mrs. Cooke...marshals the story in the brisk style of a whodunit and courtroom drama, with a firm grasp of her primary sources and the wider social history sketched lightly around them.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

On August 30, 1780--at the height of the American Revolution--twenty-year-old Theodosius Boughton, the dissolute heir to a vast fortune and the seventh Boughton baronetcy, died suddenly and in painful convulsions after taking a medication prescribed by his doctor. He was buried in a vault shortly thereafter, but his body was exhumed three days later when rumors began to circulate that the young man had been poisoned. The evidence of poison was compelling, but who could be responsible was far from clear.



Theodosius' mother had given her difficult son the medicine and insisted he drink it, even though she thought it smelled suspicious. His brother-in-law, Captain John Donellan, an Irish soldier of fortune who lived in the house with Theodosius' sister, coveted the inheritance that would flow to his wife if Theodosius died. A maid in the house with whom Theodosius--whose taste for women was voracious--had cavorted might well have been jealous at the rumor he was to be married.



With the cleverness of a master detective and the literary skill of the finest crime writers, Elizabeth Cooke deconstructs the evidence and chronicles the sensational trial that ensued, providing in the process a fascinating portrait of Georgian society, high and low. The Damnation of John Donellan is a masterpiece of forensic reconstruction.

 

About Elizabeth Cooke

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Elizabeth Cooke is the author of ten novels. Little White Lies was televised by the BBC, and The Ice Child recounts the story of the doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage. She lives in Dorset, England.
 
Published October 2, 2012 by Walker Books. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Mike Jay on Oct 24 2012

Mrs. Cooke...marshals the story in the brisk style of a whodunit and courtroom drama, with a firm grasp of her primary sources and the wider social history sketched lightly around them.

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