A Proper Person to be Detained

My new book is up for pre-order on various sites, including Waterstones so do have a browse - especially if you're interested in all kinds of things, including family history in general, the Irish migrants who fled hunger and privation to become 'hands' in industrial cities, the treatment of women in Victorian Britain, discrimination and poverty, prison conditions, law and order - and murder.

When I began this project a couple of years ago, I didn't intend for it to be quite as relevant as it seems to have become. I simply set out to research and write about a family mystery: who murdered my Irish great great uncle John in Leeds, on Christmas Day in 1881; did the murderer really, as some family members believed, get away with it - and what happened afterwards?

It wasn't simple at all though. It was difficult and complicated and harrowing and tragic, especially for those left behind. I made unexpected discoveries, and sometimes it seemed as though each one was more distressing than the last.

If you love researching your family history, and are the kind of researcher who wants to know more than the bald names and dates - if you are fascinated by the stories that lie beneath the surface - then this is the book for you. I think almost all of us, embarking on this kind of research, will uncover more than we bargained for and often, those discoveries will be profoundly distressing.

This book also stands alone as an exploration of a true crime: what led up to it, how and why the murder came about - and what happened afterwards in terms of justice and imprisonment.

And finally, it is a very personal reflection on the part that migration, poverty and prejudice have played in my personal history: the extraordinary confluence of the varied influences and experiences that have helped to make me what I am today.

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