Fell the Angels: The Case of the Priory Murder

Written by John Kerr
Review by Liza Perrat

The title implies a case of murder, but is it murder or suicide? We don’t know, as the notorious death of Charles Bravo, on which this story is based, remains unsolved. In Fell the Angels, the author presents a fictitious solution.

Charles Cranbrook dies from antimony poisoning at his elite Victorian home, The Priory, purchased by his rich wife, Cecilia. Through a fast-paced narrative the suspects and their motives of jealousy, domestic abuse and greed, are investigated. Charles’s financial problems evoke the suicide theory.

I found this story very readable, the case and the investigation intriguing. It did though, have a nonfiction feel, in that the reader is told everything, rather than shown.I did not feel the characters’ emotions. Also the overuse of participial phrases sounded awkward and the continuous stream of adjectives was slightly distracting, e.g. “… inhaled the pleasant bouquet of the expensive French bath crystals.” And the author tells us ten times that Cecilia has auburn hair.

As a whodunnit, the author’s solution didn’t work well for me. It seemed unlikely this person would murder Cranbrook for the reason elicited, and rather more plausible another of the characters would have been killed. This may prove dissatisfying to crime mystery lovers, for whom the puzzle is the main interest; it seems impossible to guess the perpetrator’s identity.

Despite these reservations, I enjoyed Fell the Angels. Victorian respectability, fame, fortune and fall are portrayed excellently, and it certainly piqued my interest in this sensational murder case.