Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Death at the Priory

Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England

by James Ruddick

“An impressively researched retelling of a mysterious murder in Victorian England . . . Death at the Priory reads as a historical intervention, crime novel, and sensational docudrama.” –Zarena Aslami, Chicago Tribune

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 224
  • Publication Date January 25, 2003
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3974-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

In 1875 the beautiful widow Florence Ricardo married the handsome and successful young attorney Charles Bravo. One night he suddenly collapsed, and three days later died an agonizing death. His doctors immediately determined that he had been poisoned.

Despite the efforts of numerous historians, criminologists, and other writers since (including Agatha Christie), the case has never been definitively solved. Now James Ruddick retells this gripping story of love, greed, brutality, and betrayal among the elite–offering an intimate portrait of Victorian culture and of one woman’s struggle to live in this repressive society, while unmasking the true murderer for the first time. Simultaneously a murder mystery, colorful social history, and modern-day detective tale, Death at the Priory is a thrilling read and a window into a fascinating time.


“An impressively researched retelling of a mysterious murder in Victorian England . . . Death at the Priory reads as a historical intervention, crime novel, and sensational docudrama.” –Zarena Aslami, Chicago Tribune

“A suspenseful and stimulating read.” –Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times

“Enjoyable; Ruddick has done much admirable sleuthing.” –Paul Collins, The New York Times Book Review

“[An] account of a murder investigation that included so many elements of the best crime fiction that even Agatha Christie took a stab at solving it. In his engrossing exploration of the case, author James Ruddick burrows deeply enough to expose the cruelties beneath the fa”ade of gentility and propriety in Victorian England.” –Mike Snyder, Houston Chronicle

“Ruddick may not have invented his colorful cast of characters, but he excels in displaying the raw emotions behind their actions. . . . Ruddick has given the reader a front-row seat to what in fact was a turning point in England’s social history.” –Brandon Whiting, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Compelling . . .

Death at the Priory reads like a first-rate murder mystery whose key points are bolstered by the author’s deep knowledge of the Victorian era.” –Susan Balee, The Weekly Standard

“A well-told tale of a murder mystery that has intrigued the English for generations . . . An absorbing melodrama. The joy in this book comes from Ruddick’s clever detective work.” –Matthew Price, The Raleigh News & Observer

“The granddaddy of all murder mysteries . . . [Ruddick] takes the case apart and reassembles it, examining each character in turn, Agatha Christie–style.” –Thomas Jackson, Forbes FYI

“James Ruddick’s Death at the Priory offers a meticulously researched and utterly gripping account of Victorian murder and marriage. It bears all the hallmarks of an immensely satisfying mystery.” –Elizabeth George

Death at the Priory is as compelling as any fictional thriller. James Ruddick possesses a real talent for bringing the characters and the situation to fascinating life.” –Kate Atkinson, author of Behind the Scenes at the Museum

“In Death at the Priory, James Ruddick has created a book that is not only a thrilling page-turner, but a wonderful evocation of the limitations and hypocrisies of the Victorian elite. It is smart, utterly absorbing, and a genuine readers’ treat.” –David Liss, author of Conspiracy of Paper

Death at the Priory is not only a gripping whodunit which arrives at some startling conclusions, but also a fascinating journey into some dark regions of the Victorian psyche. I was enthralled throughout.” –Rupert Christiansen, author of Victorian Visitors

“Engrossing, suspenseful. . . . An enthralling fast-paced story of cruelty and revenge.” –Lev Raphael, Detroit News/Free Press

“This sensational case remains as intriguing today as it was in the 19th century, and the well-considered solution reads like the drawing-room climax of a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Like any good mystery novelist, Ruddick repeatedly outlines one perfectly reasonable conclusion only to dismantle it utterly with a neat display of logic. Just as impressive, though, is his illumination of the repressive social climate of Victorian England . . . and the shattered lives of those who stepped over its gender, class and sexual boundaries.” –W

“The strange death of Charles Bravo has long plagued mystery-writers and historians alike. . . . This story is as full of dastardly villains and ladies in distress as any bodice-ripper, but it also maintains a scholarly meticulousness. . . . Masterful detective work and storytelling keep the suspense high through the final pages. . . . A wonderfully dramatic tale, vividly told.” –Kirkus Review (starred review)

“Journalist Ruddick presents a colorful, entertaining account of an unsolved Victorian murder, rife with uneasy class and gender issues. The sensational 1876 domestic poisoning, which fascinated Agatha Christie and others, features archetypal mystery elements, including a gloomy south London mansion, inscrutable servants, rejected lovers, a despicable victim and a protagonist embodying her era’s tortured sexual politics. . . . This well-executed portrait of Victorian mores and malice will please the mystery and true-crime crowd and very possibly a wider audience.” –Publishers Weekly

“A true-crime story that will hook readers from the beginning. . . . A fascinating look at the lifestyles of the Victorian age.” –Peggy Bercher, School Library Journal

“This was the O.J. Simpson case of its time; all of England was in an uproar over the multiple suspects and illicit sex. The story of murder in 1875 is a window onto Victorian England, with all its hypocrisy and oppression of women.” –Carla Cohen, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC, Book Sense quote


Book Sense–76 Selection
The Mystery Writers of America–Best Fact Crime Nominee