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November 11, 2013

Felony of the Week: The Second-Last Woman in England

Neither of Maggie Joel’s two novels is a typical whodunit. The Past and Other Lies, which will be soon available from Felony & Mayhem Press, does not reveal the dark deed at its heart until the very end; it is essentially a book about the aftermath of crime. The Second-Last Woman in England, by contrast, opens with a crime, and takes us back to the circumstances that led up to it.

It’s 1953, and in England, a brave and bright new world is at long last about to dawn. The Depression is over, the vile, vile war is over, even the endless bloody rationing is whimpering to a close. In June the new young queen will be crowned (alongside, it must be said, her extremely dishy husband). It’s all so gorgeous that Mrs. Harriet Wallis, for one, can barely keep from hugging herself. Her husband has an important job with an important firm, the children are settling in well with the new nanny, even the new fashions are splendidly flattering. Really, life is about to be too wonderful for words.

Unfortunately, it is also going to be short. On June 3 the Wallis family will gather to watch the coronation on their bought-for-the-occasion television set. Mrs. Wallis, immaculately dressed, will put three bullets neatly into Mr. Wallis. And some months thereafter she will become the second-to-last woman in England to be sentenced to death.

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