Jessie M’Lachlan was one of the countless thousands who lived in the tenements of Glasgow, Scotland. In poor health ever since her pregnancy, the single mother worked herself to the bone to provide for her child, but there was never enough to make ends meet. Her only solace in the brutal port town was the company of her best friend, tough and brawny Jess M’Pherson. Jessie and Jess had forged a bond in hardship, but it would be be torn apart by murder.
In the summer of 1862, Jess M’Pherson was found stabbed to death in her bedroom, stripped to the waist and lying in a pool of her own blood. The killing sent Glasgow into an uproar. And when Jess’s coat was found in Jessie M’Lachlan’s home, the victim’s closest friend was charged with murder. In one of the most sensational trials in Scottish history—the first to make use of forensic photography—Jessie’s life was picked apart. Though her lawyers argued that she was nowhere near the scene of the crime, the jury deliberated for just fifteen minutes before sentencing her to hang. It may have seemed like the end, but Jessie’s story was just beginning.
One of the greatest mystery authors of her generation, Christianna Brand was also a pioneer of true crime. And despite reading like fiction, every word of this gripping historical saga is rooted in fact. Fans of In Cold Blood or The Onion Field will find that Heaven Knows Who ranks among the greats. (Goodreads description)
I really enjoyed this read! Very well researched and written. It read smooth like a novel. The times were hard back then. Poor Jessie Mclachlan was always having to pawn her personal belongings to make ends meet. Clothes, household items. She would have to take a dress to pawn to get the money to get her heavy cloak out of pawn for the cold weather etc. How they kept track of all the things in pawn! It seemed it must have been a common practice of the time.
'On July 4 she must have had no money; she had to pawn a mirror to redeem her cloak before she could go out. All her things and many of her husband's had been pledged - to the tune forty-one pawn tickets.'
When it came down to who was the murderer it was poor common Jessie vs upper class Mr. Fleming and the judge made no bones about be biased against her and all for Fleming...
'balancing fact against the poor, desperate fictions - cold and clearly and always to the prisoner's disadvantage. Always with some measure of exaggeration of the facts against her, always with a toning down of what might be in her favor.'
four days of exciting, confusing testimony. Ms. Brand did a fine job of laying it all out for us. Some of the pieces of evidence from this trial are on display at the Police Museum in Glasgow. That would be interesting to see!