Open Road Release

Heaven Knows Who: The Trial of Jessie M'Lachlan - Christianna Brand

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley and Open Road Media

I hadn’t heard of the Sandyford Murder case until reading this book. In the 1860s, in Glasgow, a young woman by the name of Jess M’Lachlan was accused of murdering her friend, Jessie M’Lachlan (no relation). The case was in part tried in the press, leading to a public outcry that influenced the case.

Brand’s detailed book about the case not only gives background into the central players, but also evaluates the evidence. She also includes detailed layouts of the scene of the killing.

Jessie M’Lachlan was in service to the Fleming family, and one of the issues of the case is whether Fleming senior had anything to do with the murder. In part, the case highlights issue of class, something that Brand does deal, as well as gender, something that Brand could have had more analysis of. Brand’s primary focus seems to be on the case, and the pros and cons of each side. Brand does give detail about how hog tied M’Lachlan’s defense was because of her changing stories.

While Brand cannot solve a case of such long standing, she does a wonderful job of detailing the living conditions of the time. In fact, this detail brings another layer to the story. How much, one wonder as reading this, have things really changed? Does not society still wash its hands of the poor?