Surviving Murder, Literally


Even by the standards of the time, Cream was seen as a misogynist. He necessarily spoke of his hatred of prostitutes, who were “a menace to society”, and spoke freely of his “desire to save the world from these unfortunate beings.” He forced strangers to admire the pornographic postcards he carried in his pocket and entertained them with stories about sleeping with prostitutes and having abortions.

Despite its gruesome plot, Jobb’s excellent storytelling makes the book a pleasure to read. It deftly evokes the “cobblestones and muddy streets” of London, Ontario, and the “hell world of flickering gaslight and ominous fog” of London, England. From Cream’s first murders in the United States to her later spree in London, logical shifts in time keep the narrative alive, while carefully chosen breaks in the history of poison, surgery, and law enforcement provide much-needed respite from the doctor.

Jobb explains his narrative by expert toxicologist Dr. When Thomas Stevenson and a murder suspect point his gun with a pistol, he backs it up with fascinating supporting characters like Scotland Yard inspector Frederick Smith Jarvis. “He slowly closed his hand on the gun and freed it from the attacker.” And he takes palpable delight in the Victorian papers’ weakness for wordplay. Some of the highlights include: “Whipped Cream,” “Bad Cream,” and “Such a funky guy must have cream.”

But it wasn’t the witty headlines that insulted Cream. It was his own surging arrogance that bordered on stupidity. He had a strange habit of trying to blackmail strangers for his crimes. In 1881, he was arrested after sending postcards accusing a furrier of infecting his entire family with syphilis. At her trial, Cream defended her ignorance by saying, “People in Canada have done this sort of thing and have never been in trouble.”

Cream’s final capture required a truly astonishing act of self-blame. When an Illinois stationmaster named Daniel Stott died of an apparent epileptic seizure in 1881, he did not see the need to perform an autopsy until the local coroner began receiving telegrams from Cream saying that Stott “did not die of natural causes.” He apparently died of strychnine poisoning.”

After sending a series of increasingly insane messages, Cream managed to exhume Stott’s body – quickly making herself the prime suspect in what was declared a murder. This time, no amount of medical bullying could save him from conviction. He was sentenced to life in Joliet and his criminal career should have ended there.

But in less than a decade Cream would be pardoned and allowed to go to England and resume her business. As before, there would be nothing romantic in their crimes. He just loved to kill. When the world failed to punish him, he continued on his way.


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