Famous Trials

Introduced by Geoffrey Robertson

Edited by Harry and James H. Hodge

Dramatic accounts of eight sensational murder trials that gripped the nation – and proved that truth really is stranger than fiction.


Famous Trials

‘High among the great British contributions to world civilisation – the works of Shakespeare, the full breakfast, the herbaceous border and the presumption of innocence – must rank our considerable achievement in having produced most of the best murder trials in the long history of crime’
  1. Sir John Mortimer QC, author of the Rumpole stories

When it first appeared in 1941, the legendary ’Famous Trials’ series set the gold standard for historical crime writing. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, these accounts of the most sensational legal cases have intrigued, thrilled and entertained ever since. They remain unmatched for their literary quality, insight into the criminal mind, and evocation of the human drama of the crime scene and the courtroom.

Production Details

Bound in textured paper printed with a design by Jamie Keenan
Set in Janson
400 pages
50 integrated black & white illustrations
Printed endpapers
Blocked slipcase
9˝ × 5¾˝

Stranger than fiction

‘Most of the interest and part of the terror of great crime are due not to what is abnormal, but to what is normal in it; what we have in common with the criminal, rather than that subtle insanity which differentiates him from us.’

This new selection presents eight notorious cases from the late 19th and early 20th century – the true Golden Age of the British murder trial. Each chapter guides us carefully through the background to the crime, the fateful act and the police investigation, before taking us into the courtroom and face-to-face with a defendant in a life-or-death situation: from the chillingly calm Dr. Crippen, accused of butchering his wife and disposing of her remains in his own cellar to roguish chancer George Joseph Smith, dubbed the ‘Bluebeard of the Bath’; from mild-mannered Robert Wood, who faces overwhelming evidence that he is the prostitute-killing ‘Camden Town Murderer’ to the tragic Alma Rattenbury, who repeatedly claims to have killed her elderly husband, in spite of her young lover’s confession.

Will it end on the scaffold or with freedom? And will justice be done – or miscarried?

With a new introduction by Geoffrey Robertson QC, celebrated defence lawyer and self-confessed ‘Famous Trials’ fan. Lavishly illustrated with fifty integrated black and white images, including contemporary pictures of the key participants, crime scene photographs, and evocative images of trial evidence and original prisoner records.

About Geoffrey Robertson QC

Geoffrey Robertson QC has had a distinguished career as a trial and appellate counsel and as an international judge, and has argued many landmark cases in media, constitutional and criminal law. He made his name as the defender of Oz magazine at the celebrated 1971 trial and went on to engage in some of the most newsworthy cases in recent history. He has defended John Stonehouse, Cynthia Payne, Salman Rushdie, Kate Adie, Arthur Scargill and others. He is also the author of many leading textbooks and a memoir, The Justice Game (1998).


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