A sincere Quaker if a sinning one, John Tawell had been convicted of forgery and transported to Sydney; he returned to England a wealthy man, having become Australia's first pharmacist, though he remained socially shunned. Then in 1845, on New Year's Day, he boarded a train at Slough—headed for Paddington in London—where the operator of the Great Western Railway's new telegraph received a curious message: "A murder has just been committed ... and the suspected murderer ... is in the garb of a kwaker." This true-crime thriller chronicles Tawell's trial—a sensation involving poison and sexual scandal—and how the use of the "electric constable" to curtail his escape helped establish the telegraph as a modern communication tool.
"Reading this account of a real-life crime in 1845 is an experience close to time travel. Through impressive research and unshowy prose, Baxter whisks us back to the start of the modern age."—Independent (London)