Book #19

Wicked Children: Murderous Tales From History by Karen Maitland

Karen Maitland explores some of the real-life cases of dangerous and powerful children which have inspired her own young - but deadly - characters.
I feel immensely cheated by this, but unsure whether I have grounds for this feeling. I downloaded this book free from Amazon (hence the hesitation to feel justified in complaining), believing I was due to be regaled by horrendous and murderous acts committed by children in days gone by. I was not allowed this.

The incredibly short exploration of youthful murderers of yore was akin to an unengaging piece of research done by a sullen and resistant  high school teenager. There was no structure; no defining ideas. The various crimes were presented in a wall of text with no breaks, and no clear indication of sections, making it difficult to differentiate between the children, their deeds, and their ultimate fates. I wanted gore, I wanted shocking motive, I wanted crass depictions of utter horror. I’m actually amazed an account such as this could be so dull.

After the whistlestop tour of evil kids (if there’s anything quicker than a whistlestop tour, please do let me know, as I should be using that metaphor in this case), we’re given a long list of ways in which poisons were concocted in the past. When you think you’ve finally escaped from the monotonous world of the apothecary, Maitland uses another chapter to drone on about the antidotes to such poisons. I almost skipped back a chapter to see if there was anything in my house with which I could use to harm myself.

And finally, the most frustrating aspect of this whole ordeal was the insertion of chapters from a couple of Maitland’s novels. I had no interest in these - I don’t enjoy reading bonus chapters shoehorned into the end of novels - and I’m astounded at the realisation that the entire purpose of this book was to shamelessly sell her other books. I understand promotion, and I’m comfortable with it, but to wade through a load of drivel, in complete confusion, only to be presented with what is effectively an advertisement, is incredibly frustrating.

Like watching the first half hour of a horror film before experiencing an eternal power cut.