A Different Class of Murder: True Crime Book Review

Recently, I introduced you to John Bingham, Lord Lucan, the British Peer of the Realm suspected of murder. This week I review a book about the case, A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan.

Book cover: A Different Class of Murder
Book cover: A Different Class of Murder

An editorial note. You may notice that I always recommend the books or videos I review. I am not a professional critic; It’s my job to, hopefully, enlighten my readers, not to slam an author’s work. Rather than criticize a book or writer I didn’t like I won’t post a review.

Class and Murder

You may recall that Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, was in the middle of a contentious divorce. His wife, Veronica, accused him of domestic violence and he accused her of mental instability. Things came to a head on the night of November 7, 1974. A man entered the Lucan home at 46 Lower Belgrave Street, Belgravia and killed Sandra Rivett, the Lucan children’s nanny. Veronica said the killer was her husband. Lucan, in conversations before he disappeared, claimed to have tried to stop an attack on his wife.

Sandra Rivett, the murdered nanny
Sandra Rivett, the murdered nanny

Books and articles written about the case generally assume that Lucan was the killer. The theory is that he intended to kill his wife but killed Rivett by mistake, then disappeared. One camp argues that he committed suicide. Another contends that he escaped with the help of his wealthy friends and is (or was) still alive.

A Different Class of Murder

In A Different Class of Murder, author Laura Thompson takes a different approach. She examines the history of earls, the background of the Lucan family, and the 7th Earl’s life and lifestyle. This is before she tackles the crime itself. Interviews with key participants, several of whom are no longer living, bring the Lucan story to life.

Lord and Lady Lucan in better days
Lord and Lady Lucan in better days

Thompson concludes her book with a chapter on possible scenarios. Of course, she considers both the “Lucan did it” and the “Lucan didn’t do it” options. Then she explores some non-traditional possibilities. One scenarios is that Sandra Rivett was the intended victim all along, while another poses the idea that Veronica herself killed Rivett.

Thompson’s final scenario is one I’ve never seen proposed before. Although she really doesn’t argue strongly for any one of her scenarios, this one is logical, fits the evidence, and explains some circumstances that were heretofore puzzling. I won’t tell you what it is. You have to read the book!

Recommendation

Although Thompson is fond of rather long chapters, her writing style is engaging, and her research is thorough. A Different Class of Murder doesn’t just tell the story of a crime. It also gives the reader a window into the aristocracy in postwar Britain, a time of sweeping social changes. I heartily recommend it.

Did You Know?

One of Lord Lucan’s ancestors, George Bingham, the 3rd Earl of Lucan, gave the order that launched the disastrous “Charge of the Light Brigade” during the Crimean war.

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