Title: The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer
Author: Dean Jobb
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: July 13, 2021
“When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals,” Sherlock Holmes observed during one of his most baffling investigations. “He has nerve and he has knowledge.”
In the span of fifteen years, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream poisoned at least ten people in the United States, Britain, and Canada, a death toll with almost no precedents. Structured around Cream’s London murder trial in 1892, when he was finally brought to justice, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream exposes the blind trust given to medical practitioners, as well as the flawed detection methods, bungled investigations, corrupt officials, and stifling morality of Victorian society that allowed Cream to prey on vulnerable and desperate women, many of whom had turned to him for medical help.
Dean Jobb vividly re-creates this largely forgotten historical account against the backdrop of the birth of modern policing and newly adopted forensic methods, though most police departments still scoffed at using science to solve crimes. But then most police departments could hardly imagine that serial killers existed—the term was unknown at the time. As theChicago Tribune wrote then, Cream’s crimes marked the emergence of a new breed of killer, one who operated without motive or remorse, who “murdered simply for the sake of murder.”
In the late 1800s, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream killed at least 10 people in Canada, the United States, and Britain. He often murdered women through botched abortions and altered prescriptions. One thing I found strange was that he would give women pills, but then leave before they actually died, so he was left to assume they died. His fatal mistake was blackmailing wealthy men into believing they were the ones who murdered these women.
I’m not a huge true crime fan, but I find Victoria serial killers fascinating. These murders happened in fairly recent history, only about 150 years ago, yet they were able to get away with so much. There wasn’t the tracking data, such as fingerprints and DNA to keep track of past offenders or to identify suspects. Since the women he preyed upon were often prostitutes, the police didn’t spend much time investigating their deaths. It was amazing how Dr. Cream could murder, mostly undetected, across three countries for many years.
The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream is a fascinating look at this Victorian serial killer.
Thank you Algonquin for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb
About the author
Dean Jobb is an award-winning author and journalist and a professor at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he teaches in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction program. He is the author of eight previous books, including Empire of Deception, which the New York Times Book Review called “intoxicating and impressively researched” and the Chicago Writers Association named the Nonfiction Book of the Year. Jobb has written for major newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, and the Irish Times. He writes a monthly true-crime column, “Stranger Than Fiction,” for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. His work as an investigative reporter has been nominated for Canada’s National Newspaper and National Magazine awards, and Jobb is a three-time winner of Atlantic Canada’s top journalism award.
Have you read The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream? What did you think of it?