Elizabeth Haynes
Also by this author

The Murder of Harriet Monckton

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Longlisted   —Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown2019

‘A thoroughly absorbing whodunnit... also a touching portrait of a young woman unjustly stigmatised by the prejudices of her day.’—Sunday Times

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The Times 100 Best Books for Summer
Waterstones 2019 Essentials

From the award-winning and bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner comes a delicious Victorian crime novel based on a true story that shocked and fascinated the nation.

On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, is found murdered in the privy behind the chapel she regularly attended in Bromley, Kent.

The community is appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the surgeon reports that Harriet was around six months pregnant.

Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, Elizabeth Haynes builds a compelling picture of Harriet’s final hours through the eyes of those closest to her and the last people to see her alive. Her fellow teacher and companion, her would-be fiancé, her seducer, her former lover—all are suspects; each has a reason to want her dead.

Brimming with lust, mistrust and guilt, The Murder of Harriet Monckton is a masterclass of suspense from one of our greatest crime writers.

Elizabeth Haynes is also the author of Into the Darkest Corner, Revenge of the Tide, Human Remains and Never Alone.

Turnaround 2019 Fiction Staff Picks

11 December 2019
23-year-old Harriet Monckton is found dead on the 7th of November 1843 in the privy behind the dissenting chapel she attended. Her apparent murder is the subject of Elizabeth Haynes’ first dive into historical fiction, and what a story it is. There are many suspects among those who were closest to Harriet, and Haynes heaps on the tension through testimonies and coroner’s reports, building to an unforgettable conclusion, all the while painting a touching portrait of an unjustly maligned young woman, and lending rich authenticity to the world she inhabited. Incredibly suspenseful and brimming with meticulous detail, The Murder of Harriet Monckton is a masterclass of just how good historical fiction can be.
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Suspense Magazine

11 December 2019
There are many stories based on facts, but I have to say this is one of the most spine-tingling ones I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It was back in 1843, that the nation became fascinated with a young woman by the name of Harriet Monckton. Monckton, only twenty-three years old, was found murdered in the privy behind the chapel she regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. Being that Harriet was from a respectable family and background, it was not a surprise that the entire community was absolutely horrified by her death. But what was even more hideous was the fact that the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant when she died of poisoning. Because no killer was ever found or punished for the crime, this author wrote her tale based on factual information so everyone could remember the fate of poor Harriet. Using flawless narration, the author draws data from coroner’s reports and court testimonies so that she can tell the tale from the personal viewpoints of each character; and all of these characters had a reason for wanting the woman to die. Harriet Monckton’s life was apparently very busy. Having at least three lovers, she was a true scandal for that time period. Many people were suspected of her murder, including her own close companion, Miss Frances Williams. Readers will find themselves engrossed in the suggestions that are brought up by this author when it comes to a small town that looks a great deal like they were hiding secrets and guilt behind a veil of innocence. Small towns have a history of hypocrisy in novels, and this is one that will make you truly think of what can be hidden when people band together to conceal their most heinous actions. Reviewed by Amy Lignor, author of “The Double-Edged Sword” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine

Publishers Weekly

4 September 2019
Actual documents from Britain’s National Archives concerning inquests into the November 1843 demise of Harriet Monckton, an unmarried, secretly pregnant 23-year-old teacher, serve as the springboard for this rich psychological crime novel from Haynes (Never Alone). The author weaves together snippets of testimony from the official investigation in Bromley, Kent, with fictionalized accounts from several of the key figures in Harriet’s life—and suspects in her death—among them the charismatic but deeply flawed Rev. George Verrall; fellow schoolmarm and discreetly infatuated best friend Frances Williams; former lover Richard Field; and handsome Thomas Churcher, the kindhearted cobbler too shy to declare his love. Readers also hear from Harriet herself, via a (fictional) 120-page diary. Though this suspenseful account of a case that remained unsolved in real life—unlike the novel—feels overlong, Haynes vividly brings to life an intellectually curious, vibrant young woman ill-suited to the strictures of Victorian village life. Historical mystery fans will be rewarded.
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4 August 2019
Taking inspiration from a real-life Victorian murder inquiry, Elizabeth Haynes twists the established facts in to a richly atmospheric crime thriller. Whilst the plotting is immensely skilful and the tension expertly exploited, it is the subtle gender politics and rounded characterisation that marks The Murder of Harriet Monckton out as a truly superior crime novel.
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17 July 2019
Historical fiction has always floated my boat. I love immersing myself in the past, particularly when the story in question is based on fact. And particularly where there are unanswered questions and room for interpretation. Give me a slow reveal of fact and supposition cleverly interwoven and I am in clover. I also love a long book. The joy of finding a book that is skilfully put together and captivating is unbounded. Who doesn’t want a really great story to go on? So I approached The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes with excited anticipation. Heartfelt thanks go to Emma Dowson at Myriad for my gifted copy. I wasn’t disappointed; my reading experience was every bit as satisfying and enthralling as I had hoped. Based on a true story Haynes takes us back to Bromley, 1843 and sets about unmasking the killer of Harriet Monckton. A young aspiring teacher Harriet is found dead in the privy at the back of her local Chapel, 24 hours after leaving a friends house to post a letter. It is quickly established that Harriet has been poisoned but is this through her own hand or has she been murdered? The revelation that unmarried Harriet is ‘with child’ adds further complexity and intrigue. As an inquest is called various potential suspects come to light. Haynes has used actual coroner’s reports and witness testimonies from the original case to paint a picture of both a life and community riddled with secrets, all touched by suspicion. Could gentle Tom Churcher be Harriet’s killer? It was he who found the body and seems strangely affected by her death. Having been seen ‘walking out with’ Harriet, despite being unofficially betrothed to another, could this be a love affair turned sour? What of his spurned sweetheart Emma? Is this a killing with is motives in jealousy and revenge? Harriet’s friend and sometimes housemate Frances Williams cannot be discounted either. Why exactly has she become so close to the deceased and what would it cost her if the true nature of their relationship was disclosed? And what does Richard Field, husband of a dear friend, know of Harriet’s death. As former landlord and clearly former lover he is quickly pulled into the circle of suspicion. Finally and perhaps most chillingly, we must consider The Reverend George Verrall. Is his relationship one simply of spiritual guidance and confessor as he would have his followers believe, or is there a more sinister side to his relationship with Harriet ? This, perhaps unsurprisingly is a story of secrets, of hidden facts and relationships build on half truths and lies. The plotting of this novel is skilful, layers of deception are slowly revealed as each character uses their own distinct voice to present their individual relationship with Harriet. For Harriet means different things to different people and this is key to our tale. It is through these authentic voices we build a snap shot of a group of characters who are misunderstood not only by each other but by themselves. Working hard to justify their actions or, indeed, inactions there is a sense of self deception which permeates their testimonies. Richard Field, for example, works hard to convince not only the reader but also himself that he is a dedicated family man, taking little or no responsibility for the pivotal role he played in Harriet’s life and undoing. Rev. Verrall’s account aims for piety but smacks of desperation. His attempts to lead the inquest to a verdict of suicide make him all the more suspicious and frankly distasteful. And this is a view that is enhanced and repeated through the use of Harriet’s diary. For crucially Harriet’s is not a voiceless victim in this story. The use of her own written testimony adds clarity, gives her character power but also brings into sharp focus one of the key strengths of this novel. The abuse of power, both spirtual, sexual and financial power is behind Harriet’s sorry tale. For Harriet is not an uneducated women. Rather she is spirited, independent and eloquent. Her relationship with Richard Field was based on genuine feeling, it’s ending a moral sacrifice on her part for the sake of a dear friend. Moreover her treatment at the hands of George Verrall is the classic abuse of power. Religious power and abuse masquerading as concern and correction, the sacrifice of one young woman for a greater male purpose. The weaving of deceit and concealment is all too common both in Harriet’s life time and our modern day society. For the real genius of this novel lies in it’s ability to commentate on the treatment of women in the past, but make it relevant to society today. As a reader I couldn’t help but link the kind of abuse of power detailed so starkly with in these pages to the events of recent years; the #MeToo campaign and all its associated stories and movement. The situation Harriet faces is still something faced by women all over the world. Elizabeth Haynes has employed to maximum effect the ability to look to the past to illuminate the lessons we are still learning today. And what if the killer of Harriet Monckton? Well, you will find no spoilers here but as with everything else in this gem of a book, nothing is ever quite as it seems.
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The Pool

25 September 2018
Bestselling crime writer Elizabeth Haynes (Into The Darkest Corner) has turned her attention to an unsolved true Victorian crime: the discovery of the body of 23-year-old Harriet Monckton behind a chapel in Bromley, Kent. She was five or six months pregnant at the time and a number of people would have had motive for killing her: her closest friend, her would-be fiancé, her seducer and her former lover. Haynes tells the story from the point of all four with painstaking detail—this an expertly crafted slow-burn of a novel, immersing you in the double standards of Victorian Bromley (yes, Market Square before McDonald’s and The Glades took hold, for those who know it). Harriet Monckton, by all accounts, was a vivacious, dynamic, sexually active unmarried woman—everything Victorian morality couldn’t cope with. And she suffered for it. Perfect autumn sofa fodder for an empty weekend.
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Off The Shelf Books

21 September 2018
The Murder of Harriet Monckton is exquisite - a haunting and compelling historical whodunnit. It's based on a Victorian crime, using original research materials to explore what happened to a young woman, Harriet Monckton, who was murdered with her unborn son. Reading this book felt like reading the script of an Agatha Christie movie. The chapters switch from one character to the next and then back again, building up their layers, turning them into well-rounded and very real individuals. Elizabeth Haynes brings each character to life - Harriet's friends, family and other locals - exploring their possible motives, all being potential suspects with something to hide. The Murder of Harriet Monckton is more than just a true crime murder mystery. It's a 'me too' story of the 1840s, a disturbing insight into the social expectations, naivety of young women and the importance of religion within communities. The story felt authentic from start to finish, thanks to meticulous research providing specific details in the descriptions of the characters, setting and social interactions of that era.
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Sarra Manning, Red Magazine

20 September 2018
Fans of The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher will also like this novelisation of a real-life murder that shocked the inhabitants of a small Kentish town. In 1843, Harriet Monckton’s body was found in a chapel privy, poisoned and pregnant. This novel follows Harriet’s final days as seen by the people closest to her, who may also have wanted her dead.
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Waterstones—staff pick

3 September 2018
Elizabeth Haynes has written a fantastic novel, using old documents relating to Harriet Monckton’s murder which happened in 1843 in Bromley. Narrated by a colourful cast of characters and imaginative plot and dialogues, she was able to reconstruct the story of this cold case. She brings alive the Victorian era and Victorian Bromley alive. You simply cannot put it down until the last page as you try to guess who the real culprit is amongst all the suspects. This fascinating story is a real page turner.
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15 August 2018
Probably the best historical crime novel I have ever read. Elizabeth Haynes’ skill as a writer was in every word of every page; not once did I doubt that I was in Bromley in 1843. The characters were superb: villains, lovers, friends and Harriet herself were so well-formed with distinctive voices. The mystery was gripping and I was thrilled to discover I’d guessed the murderer wrong. Haynes passion for Harriet’s story (it's based on a real crime) is the life blood of this book and I found the Afterward about the author’s research very touching. Captivating, masterful and moving this is one book—and one death—I will remember for a very long time.

Julia Crouch

30 July 2018

Elizabeth Haynes is one of the top storytellers in a genre bursting with the best tale-spinners in the world.

I wouldn’t normally turn to historical crime fiction, but Elizabeth’s unearthing and championing of Harriet Monckton’s case has changed my mind. She has charged it with compassion, wisdom and, crucially, a modern understanding of human nature and psychology.

The Murder of Harriet Monckton is a page-turning mystery, a parade of testimonies that gets you under the skin of the characters surrounding the real and terrible tragedy of poor Harriet Monckton.

It is also a #MeToo for the Victorian era—a humane defence of women of all eras who choose not to conform, who, within the confines of a highly circumscribed society, manage to make their own way. History is crowded with ‘fallen’ women like Harriet—victims of a cruel world stacked against female interests, experiences and biology.  However much they are ultimately made to suffer, their trailblazing is to be celebrated.

This is an important book, one which I just could not put down. If spirits exist, Harriet's will take some comfort knowing that Elizabeth Haynes has set her trained, empathetic, forensic eye to vindicate her.

The Bookbag

18 July 2018
The writing is exceptional: I spent much of the book in a state of visceral terror for Harriet... Haynes captures the age perfectly and she’s particularly good on the precarious life of the unmarried woman, virtuous or not... the plot has a sense of completeness about it and the ending blew me away: it just seemed so right. In real life the murder might remain unsolved, but Haynes’ solution is neat, realistic and entirely plausible. Perhaps the highest praise that I can give this book is to say that it won’t be too long before I reread to see how it was all done.

The Bookbag

10 June 2018
But that's just it, she said. It's not Harriet, is it? Not our Harriet. It's some manufactured creature, that exists only for this blessed inquest: something to be summed up like a spirit, to be examined and pored over, to be sneered at and judged. Harriet deserves to be remembered as she was to us, not picked at like carrion. And that was the problem: it seemed that there were two Harriets. There was the one her friends knew—a fellow teacher, her would-be lover, her seducer and the man who was her landlord but who was also her lover. Some spoke of her as kindly, virtuous and pious, but that was before her body was found in the privy behind the chapel which she regularly attended in Bromley. She'd been poisoned—or had taken her own life, as some would prefer. After the inquest was opened another Harriet would emerge, one who was about six months pregnant and who had obviously not been living the chaste life expected of a young, unmarried woman in 1843. I'd better begin by admitting to a couple of biases. I'm not a great reader of historical fiction, and historical crime in particular: the modern police procedural is where my heart lies. But when you receive a proof of a book by one of your favourite authors it’s easy to feel that you needn’t be quite so rigid about your preferences. I first encountered Elizabeth Haynes when I read Into The Darkest Corner more than seven years ago and I’ve recently become hooked on her DCI Louisa Smith books—Under A Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors. I’ll confess that I was rather hoping for another in the series, but I was intrigued by the thought of an accomplished writer of police procedurals turning her hand to historical fiction where a completely different set of skills would be required. I’ve always been impressed by the way that Haynes has us straight into the story in her police procedurals: The Murder of Harriet Monkton has more of a slow-burn start. Relax: take time to get to know the characters and appreciate the fact that they’re exquisitely drawn as there's no shortage of people who might have wanted Harriet dead. There’s Frances Williams, the schoolteacher. Harriet regarded her as a friend, but Frances’ feelings were rather stronger: if that became public knowledge her position as a schoolteacher would be in danger. The Reverend George Verrall appeared pious and virtuous, but his particular method of inspiring the holy spirit to enter his body would not have been appreciated by his parishioners should the facts become known. Thomas Churcher, a shoemaker, was apparently spoken for, but he’d given his heart to Harriet—the one person who didn’t think that he was slow-witted. Richard Field had been Harriet's landlord, but he’d seduced her when he’d already given his heart to another woman. Who murdered Harriet, and who was the father of her unborn child? The writing is exceptional: I spent much of the book in a state of visceral terror for Harriet, not because of what would happen to her, but because of her situation whilst she was alive, as those who could have—should have—helped her refused to do so, usually with an entirely unwarranted sense of piety and righteousness. Her options were severely limited, with the workhouse being the only backstop. Haynes captures the age perfectly and she’s particularly good on the precarious life of the unmarried woman, virtuous or not. A plot based on a true story can be too constrained and is usually all the more so when research has been done to the extent it's been done in this story. Haynes has taken some liberties with facts, but they’re relatively small and documented in the Afterword. Rather than being constrained the plot has a sense of completeness about it and the ending blew me away: it just seemed so right. In real life the murder might remain unsolved, but Haynes’ solution is neat, realistic and entirely plausible. Perhaps the highest praise that I can give this book is to say that it won't be too long before I reread to see how it was all done.
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Compulsive Readers

6 June 2018
My Review:  If you follow my reviews or are a member of THE Book Club then you will know that Elizabeth Haynes is one of my all time favourite authors and her debut book INTO THE DARKEST CORNER is, in my humble opinion, the BEST psychological thriller EVER.  So you can imagine my surprise, delight and excitement to receive one of the first advanced copy proofs of her new book THE MURDER OF HARRIET MONCKTON, especially as I didn’t even know she had written a new book! I will admit to feeling slightly less excited when I realised this book was a “dramatic fictionalisation based on a true story from 1843”, as it’s not one of my preferred genres and was concerned I wouldn’t enjoy the story because of the genre. How silly am I?  (Don’t answer that!).  The Murder of Harriet Monckton is absolutely BRILLIANT.  Firstly, you need to know that this book is based on a true story as the author chanced upon two documents whilst researching another book at the National Archives in London.  These documents were the correspondence between the coroner and the Home Secretary from December 1844 and from this Elizabeth Haynes interest was piqued and her research into what happened to Harriet Monckton has resulted in this fascinating story. When you read the authors “Afterword” you realise how incredible this book really is, Elizabeth Haynes has created a story based on 2 documents and brought to life a wonderful array of characters, recreated a truly authentic Bromley and given a voice to an intriguing mystery surrounding the death of a young woman. The story is narrated through several characters all connected to Harriet Monckton and each voice is plausible and authentic.  It was so easy to be drawn into their lives, feel their emotions and care about them.  I was transported instantly to a different era where women were struggling to be heard, men were respected regardless of their behaviour and religion was paramount to the well being of the community. Highly recommended.
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