A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Case of Madeleine Smith

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks
Rick Geary is a tremendous and unique cartoonist. No other cartoonist is fascinated with the things that Geary cares about. In this case, he produces the eighth volume of his "A Treasury of Victoria Murder", which has in the past depicted the murder of Abraham Lincoln and told the stories of Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper. Madeleine Smith was a woman who is much less known than those figures, but her story is nonetheless quite interesting as a drama about the conflict of class and romance in 19th century England.

In the early 19th century, Emile L'Anglier was born to a middle-class family. His father ran plant nurseries and Emile worked as a clerk in various of his father's establishments. Several years later, Madeleine Smith was born to a well-to-do family in Glasgow in the early 19th century. One day, completely at random, the pair meet on a street in Glasgow. L'Anglier quickly falls in love with the beautiful girl, while she falls in love with the idea of him. The pair trade love letters and short visits for several months but are never allowed to be seen in public together. Finally, after one last romantic night together, Madeleine tries to end things with Emile while he tries desperately to hold on to her. Finally Madeleine takes a new paramour who is of the correct social station. With Emile still sending her desperate love letters, Madeleine does the one thing she can think of to get rid of the man: poison him.

What follows is all the more amazing because it's all true. Geary's book is a reminder that injustice didn't begin with the OJ Simpson trial, and that life will often take twists and turns far more surprising than fiction could ever depict. Who would have guessed that the shallow and weak young Madeleine would turn into such an intriguing person later on in her life?

Rick Geary's writing is more fact based than emotion based. The story reads like one of those TV mystery documentaries rather than a drama. That's not an insult - the detailed story is well done and fascinating, but it also serves to keep the story at a bit of an arm's length for the reader. It keeps the reader intellectually involved but doesn't really capture the emotions. That's typical for a book by Geary, though, so it is what one expects. Still, a bit more emotion would have brought the story more to life.

Geary's artwork as as elegant as it always is. He does a wonderful job of depicting characters who look and feel like they're from another age. Faces seem different from what we're used to these days, and the grand and complex outfits that people wore are absolutely fascinating.

The story in this volume might not be as outwardly compelling as those discussing the assassination of President Garfield or the serial killer H.H. Holmes. But in its depiction of class and morals and interesting people, this is an interesting and entertaining volume.

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