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A Serpent In Eden: 'The greatest murder mystery of all time'

James Owen

4 Reviews

Rated 0

True crime, Prose: non-fiction, Fiction

* A compelling portrait of glamour and corruption and a gripping true-crime story -- the murder of Sir Harry Oakes in the Bahamas in 1943.

Night comes quickly to the Bahamas. That of 7 July 1943 was unpleasantly close and humid, for though the rains were nearing their end, the air was heavy with an approaching storm. It struck Nassau soon after midnight. By the time it had blown itself out, one of the world's richest men, Sir Harry Oakes, had been murdered in his own bedroom. He had been burned alive, then had his skull broken by four blows to the head. When the body was found at daybreak, bloody handprints marked the walls of the room, while a fan stirred small white feathers that clung to the charred corpse on the bed. Beyond it, the window stood wide open. Even in the middle of wartime, Oakes's death commanded front-page headlines in the world's newspapers, and began a series of events whose protagonists included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ernest Hemingway, two French aristocrats, a suspected Nazi and a grey Maltese cat, and which culminated in the sensational trial and acquittal of Oakes's own son-in-law for the crime. Owen's brilliant telling of the story stands alongside James Fox's WHITE MISCHIEF as a true-crime classic as well as an extraordinary portrait of a glamorous and corrupt society.

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Praise for A Serpent In Eden: 'The greatest murder mystery of all time'

  • His book drips with the hothouse milieu of wartime Nassau. His exposition of the trial is both lively and convincing in its analysis... Lucid and ingeniously argued. - SUNDAY TIMES

  • A fascinating book written with exemplary thoroughness...the last word on this endlessly compelling tale. - William Boyd, DAILY TELEGRAPH

  • Fascinating in its evocation of life in Nassau during World War II. - DAILY MAIL

  • James Owen has re-examined the evidence and produced a fascinating account of the murky lives of the idle rich. - MAIL ON SUNDAY

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James Owen

James Owen was born in London in 1969. He studied Modern History at Oxford University. His previous books are A Serpent in Eden (Little, Brown, 2005) - shortlisted for the 2005 CWA Golden Dagger (non-fiction), and The Voice of War: The Second World War Told By Those Who Fought It, with Guy Walters (Viking, 2004). He writes regularly for The Times, the Telegraph and the Financial Times. He lives in Rome with his sculptor wife.

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