The Mysterious Mrs Hood

Great Yarmouth, September 1900: A young woman is found dead on the beach, a bootlace tied tightly around her neck. She is quickly traced to a lodging house and identified as Mrs Hood, a visitor to the town with her small child. But, despite her death attracting national attention in the press, nobody claims her. Detective Inspector Robert Lingwood of the Great Yarmouth police force is assigned to the case and declares he will not rest until the mystery of the young woman’s death is solved.

The curious case of Mrs Hood is decreed a ‘Sherlock Holmes mystery’ in the scandal-hungry, crime-obsessed press. Only once the case has been referred to Scotland Yard do the layers of mystery start to peel away…

‘Mrs Hood’ was in fact Mary Jane Bennett, and this is her story.

Following clues, tracking red herrings and discovering leads delivers to the police, finally, the dead woman’s true identity, and the evidence to close in on their one and only suspect. The scene was set for one of the most eagerly anticipated trials of the early twentieth century. With dramatic speeches by the defence, a surprise alibi at the last minute and newspapers interviewing witnesses before they had spoken in court, one could question whether the circus around the case sent an innocent man to his death. With an identical murder happening a few years later, do we know the whole truth?

Kim Donavan is Mary Jane Bennett’s great, great niece. She is Head of Library Academic Engagement at the University of Brighton, where she leads the Librarian teams in their support of learning and teaching. When she isn’t working, she’s rooting around in archives and libraries, infected with what Wilkie Collins famously described as ‘the detective-fever’. Kim is represented by Hannah Schofield at LBA Books.