Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
According to the bibliography at the end of The Killing of Julia Wallace, at least eight full-length tomes on the same 1931 death have come into being in the past 80 years. Some may think Gannon’s will enhance the canon. Shots is sadly not among those readers. This 200-pager is likely to appeal most (and maybe only) to devotees of the tale.
Gannon in his preface to the book acknowledges his predecessors with awe and admiration. Like many he is compelled by the still unresolved killing. He claims that his own research has led him to pinpoint two key players in the story – a Qualtrough and a Marsden. He also alleges that the police force of eight decades back knew who both were but never produced any official evidence from either. person
The idea is a good one and a fair effort to shed light on the murk that saw Wallace’s widower William Herbert first convicted of the murder on admittedly flimsy evidence. His conviction was later quashed on appeal and Wallace died two years later, the mystery still complete. The Wallace case has confounded and intrigued since then and featured in dramatisations and documentary style programs alike.
Gannon may well have uprooted key bits of evidence and this could lead to more posthumous vindication for Mr. Wallace or a peaceful repose for Mrs. Wallace. But readers will have to sift through a lot to get to that evidence and they may not wish to. For this reader, the problem lies in the writing and presentation. Long, long paragraphs dense on largely unlinked detail. Chapter headings that have little to do with the content. Key sentences containing triple and even quadruple negatives that make it difficult for the reader to get Gannon’s points. Some fey language (Gannon uses the word whilst - a lot ).
Some of Gannon’s observations rankle on their own terms. Towards the end, there is a speculation that Julia may have paid men to serve as her personal gigolos/prostitutes. Gannon builds on this to posit that Julia, 67, may have felt her looks and appeal fading and thus paid for sexual congress. The whole segment is unattractive not in terms of what Wallace may have done but in Gannon’s portrayal of her as possibly desperate, needy and delusional.
There may be elements in this work that merit the “revealing answers and conniving proofs” label trumpeted on the jacket. In the opinion of this reviewer, these nuggets are too deeply buried to really shine light.