My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 25th 2015 by Dundurn Group
Dr. William Henry King is the only person to have ever been executed in Northumberland County, Ontario. He came to that fame in 1859 for the murder of his wife by poison. It caused quite the sensation in the little village of Brighton at the time with its tales of mistresses, unborn babes, florid love letters and an attempt to flee. Written by a genealogist, the Brighton town historian and a direct family descendant of Dr. King himself this history of the event and court case is a fascinating read. One gets a feel for the author's love of his material right away and though this is a scholarly volume rather than of a true crime nature, Buchanan's natural storyteller's voice shines through. Filled with direct quotes from source materials and woven together with Buchanan's narrative one gets a feel for the time and place. Dr. King is a selfish man and all throughout his days in prison with his mind turned to confession and salvation by regular visits from clergy, he never once thinks of the life he snuffed out, only of his own. He didn't garner any sympathy from me! The back matter is filled with the original documents. The highlights being Alexander Stewart's (his police companion) daily journal, King's 7000 word "confession" manuscript in which he pleads for all to understand how his weakness for women's wiles and the devil made him do it, plus a newspaper piece from a visit the night before hanging by a journalist who grew up with King as a good friend. There's also a good history of Brighton which will be of most interest to those from the area. The book took me a little bit to get going but once I'd got going I found it easy reading, entertaining and a fascinating case I'd never heard of before.