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June 21, 2017

Review: The Killing of Julia Wallace

© Stephanie Hoover, All Rights Reserved

Cover of The Killing of Julia Wallace
Sponsored Link: The Killing of Julia Wallace, Kent State University Press, 2017

In his obituary in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Jonathan Goodman was described as "Britain's leading historian of crime." Over the course of his 76 years, Goodman wrote some 40 books. From the killing of American socialite Starr Faithfull and the questionable case against Harvey Hawley Crippen, to the murder of Evelyn Foster on the moors of Northumberland, England, Goodman investigated crimes like a detective. His books often divulged theretofore unknown details and hypotheses.

Goodman employed what he called the 40-year rule. If more than four decades have passed since the commission of even the most heinous crime, he believed, its shock value - and therefore entertainment value - diminished. This formula guided Goodman, in the late 1960s, toward the 1931 murder of Julia Wallace.

At the time (and for many years afterward) Julia's murder was all anyone cared about. Other famous crime writers like Dorothy L. Sayers and P. D. James spoke and wrote extensively about the case. Newspapers printed an ocean of ink. Liverpudlians gossipped incessantly about the mysterious death of one of their own. But for all the attention, there was little consensus about who really killed the unhealthy and withdrawn Julia Wallace.

The accepted facts about the murder are few. Julia was brutally bludgeoned to death in her own home, there is no doubt of that. But was the killer her husband, William Herbert Wallace? William, a chess enthusiast, was scheduled to play in a tournament at this club the night his wife was killed. A mysterious call from a man no one ever identified prompted him to leave before playing, however. He spent the next hour searching for the street address offered by the caller, to no avail. To investigators, though, it seemed that William made certain to leave a trail of witnesses who would remember his attempts - alibis only the murderer would need.

Julia's widower was arrested but the case was thin. What was his motive? Where was the physical evidence connecting him to the bloody sitting room where Julia was discovered? And, did police - as Goodman proposes - overlook an obvious suspect who successfully committed the perfect crime?

The Killing of Julia Wallace takes readers through each moment of the crime, subsequent investigation, and legal proceedings. The sometimes excruciating detail fully educates the reader to the case and the key players involved in it. But Goodman also does something else: he identifies the man he believes to be the real murderer, and gives full explanation why.

Although originally published in 1969, Kent State University Press re-released The Killing of Julia Wallace in April 2017.

CIM recommends The Killing of Julia Wallace to fans of historical true crime, British true crime, and readers who enjoy books detailing police procedure and criminal trials.