Title: The Nightingale Shore Murder: The life and death of a Queen’s Nurse
Author: Rosemary Cook
Publisher:Spire Publishing, 2011
Reviewer:Jenni Middleton, Editor, Nursing Times, EMAP
What was it like?
This fascinating murder mystery has it all – intrigue, historical insight about contemporary nursing during the first world war and family drama. No one to this day is exactly sure what happened to Florence Nightingale Shore on her last fateful train journey from London Victoria to Bexhill or who killed her, but Rosemary Cook takes readers through all the options, adding her own shrewd reflections to highlight where evidence contradicts the theories touted at the time.
I frequently travelled on parts of the train journey mentioned in this book when I had a job at Redhill, so the book had an extra appeal to me because I was familiar with the routes and stops mentioned. I also think the stories of nursing during the war were moving and interesting – showing how important nurses were to the safety of the public and the troops, and the high regard in which they were held.
There are mentions of Florence Nightingale Shore’s godmother and namesake, and those too are of interest to those fascinated by nursing’s pedigree and past.
What were the highlights?
Florence’s family are interesting – her father remarried to a much younger woman who didn’t outlive him, her brother led a military life and appeared to be quite vocal about Florence’s close relationship with Mabel (her nurse friend who was the last person to probably see Florence alive and conscious – besides the killer, of course)The book begins with the fateful train journey that was to be Florence’s last, and then tells the story of her life in a number of well-researched chapters. It uses family letters to fill in much of the detail and characterise the key players in Florence’s life.
The mystery surrounding the murder is examined in some detail at the end of the book where in the final chapters, Rosemary Cook unveils the suspects and offers up evidence that supports or counters suggestions of their involvement.
Strengths and weaknesses?
Rosemary Cook is an excellent writer, and the book has an easy to read structure and flow. I was quickly absorbed by the personalities of the story, and found it an accessible historical text, as well as a good story. The unsolved mystery may leave people who want to know what really happened a little unfulfilled, but as this is a true story and the case was always unsolved, you can’t rewrite the history.
Who should read it?
For anyone who loves true life crime and nursing, this is a must read.