BOOK CLUB: The Devil’s Work

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The Devil’s Work by Garry Linnell is a true-crime story. The book is a very interesting read, well researched and told in a way that engages you to want to know the outcome.

Included are some wonderful photos of the key characters.

This is part of Australia’s history that I was not aware of.

It is the story of Frederick Deeming, born in England, and lived for some years in Australia. He travelled the world extensively during his life. He was known by many aliases. He was a murderer, a con man, a bigamist, a thief and a liar. He had a fascination for women.

In Australia, in 1892 a woman’s body was found buried under a hearthstone in a bedroom of a rented house in Melbourne. The house had been left vacant by the tenant. While showing a new tenant through the house, the landlord noticed a horrible smell coming from the room. The floor had recently been cemented.

The police are able to identify the woman as Emily Williams. She had arrived in Melbourne with her husband, Albert Williams. They had sailed on the Kaiser Wilhelm from England. The other passengers were keen to help in the investigation, as they had found Mr Williams quite obnoxious.

Enquiries found that he was still married to his first wife, Marie Deeming. Marie’s whereabouts and that of his children was unknown. An English journalist investigates, and noticing the house Frederick Deeming had rented in England also had a new cement floor, he is able to get the police to dig up the floor. Tragically the bodies of Marie and their 4 children were found.

Frederick is traced to a mine in Western Australia where he is arrested.

The whole world is shocked by these murders.

Speculation arises about crimes in other countries that he has visited. Is he responsible for their unsolved murders?

Could he even be Jack The Ripper?

When confronted about the murders, Frederick claims that the ghost of his dead mother had told him to commit them. This fascinates Sidney Dickson and his wife Marion. Sidney is a New York Times Correspondent, in Australia to lecture on Art. They are both supporters of spiritualism, believing in afterlife that allows the living and the dead to communicate.

It is extremely interesting to read of the Victorian Era fascination with ghosts, spiritualism and science.
Also that the conclusions of Italian scientists linking physical characteristics to criminality had become an established “fact”.

There is so much more to Frederick’s life than the murders! So many attempts to marry unsuspecting women!

The trial in Melbourne is followed by newspapers all around the world and 450 people pack into the courtroom to witness it. Briefly, the world’s attention is on Australia….what will be the outcome of the trial?

An excellent read.

Author: Garry Linnell
ISBN: 9781761041754
Copy courtesy of Penguin

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Devil’s Work by Garry Linnell. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

7 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Devil’s Work

  1. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read The Devils work by Garry Linnell.

    This is a true story. These books are usually not my kind of read, but it read like a story so I enjoyed it.

    This is a very detailed book that investigates Frederick Deeming, refereed to as Jack the Ripper.

    Deeming is a con artist of the finest order. He is a very disturbed individual and a murderer.

    This is not a book for the faint hearted, it describes his murders in gruesome detail.


  2. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Penguin Australia for this book.

    This was a thoroughly researched book about a killer I’ve never heard of before. The killer was also a very well travelled bigamist, liar and swindler that lead a very interesting, extraordinary and deadly life. At times the story seemed so far fetched that I forgot I was reading a true crime story because it reads more like a work of fiction.
    The author is also a journalist which shows in the extensive research and details. My only gripe is that there is a bit too much information in some places about some of the characters and I felt a little bogged down.
    There are a lot of photos included in the middle of the book so you can see the killer, his victims, other characters and the burial sites of his victims.
    All up, an interesting read about some early history of Australia I never knew about. A little gruesome in parts, but a good true crime book.
    3.5 stars

  3. Part macabre tale, part truthful story, “The Devil’s Work” is a fascinating and intriguing read.

    Set in the late 1800’s, it centres around convicted criminal Frederick Deeming, the petty conman and Jack the Ripper suspect who ended up in gaol in Australia for murdering one of his wives & children.

    Deeming arouses the curiosity of well respected journalist Sidney Dickinson and his wife Marion.

    Deeming is a strange character, he claims to be tormented by the spirit of his dead mother. And most people think he’s crazy. Except for Marion Dickinson, who is known for her spiritual beliefs and ability to connect with the dead.

    This book was an unexpected surprise, you can tell that author Garry Linnell is a journalist at heart but he spins a great tale in an easy to read and flowing style.

    Definitely recommended for true crime enthusiasts and those who like something a little left of field.

  4. Being an avid true crime fan, I was delighted to be selected to read The Devil’s Work. OMG, it is fantastic. Well written, excellent descriptions and narrative. I read 36 pages in one sitting and if not for my tired eyes, I would have continued on for a lot longer. Set in Australia, the story of the main
    character, Frederick Deeming, is fascinating and intriguing because he lived a complicated lie.

    Half of me pitied him, and the other half despised him. He could be so kind and generous while deceiving a number of honest people and destroying their lives in the process.

    The extent of the killings and destruction across many families saddened me. Particularly when children had their futures cut short by such a vicious and unrepentant monster.

    It had all the elements I love … horror, supernatural, ghosts, and insanity. I love the method in which the tale is told and the setting in the 1800s is described beautifully, I felt like I was walking down the streets and smelling the air. The detail is so vivid that I could image I was watching a movie of every action and adventure. The inclusion of actual photographs was a valuable addition as it set one’s imagination straight of how the characters.

    However, by around p194 I was feeling bored. There is a lot of added details that has limited contribution to building the excitement or intrigue. This was shortly lived thankfully, because the very next chapter were exciting, as the court case commenced and descriptions were fabulous and detailed excellently.

    I liked that the ‘afterward’ was very detailed as it shed light onto general society at the time of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    Great work Garry Linnell, I look forward to coming across more of your works.

  5. Thank you for the opportunity to read “the Devils Work” by Garry Linnell. This is an Australian True Crime story and the author is a journalist. The story has been very well researched and offers insights into the thinking of the late 1800’s
    The main character, Deeming is a mass murderer. He is also a bigamist, skilful liar, world wide traveller and also can be caring and kind. are questions in relation to his sanity. Deeming was short in stature, with a low receding forehead “indicating intellect of a low order”. I was very interesting in the author’s detailed descriptions of the thinking at that time. Many believed the size and shape of the head was corelated to intellect. There was also a strong rise in ‘spiritualism’. Deeming claimed his dead mother visited him at 2am in the morning. Psychiatry was in its infancy and some of the theories prevalent at that time, now seem ludicrous. I found this part of the story very interesting .
    At times I found the book hard reading. There was so much detail that I occasionally felt ooverwhelmed with it and could not tie it all together. l
    For those who enjoy true crime stories, especially those with links to Australia, then I am sure this will have you enthralled


  6. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Garry Linnell for the opportunity to read The Devil’s Work. I first heard about this story from a podcast in which Mr Linnell was being interviewed. As he spoke about Deeming and the key points in the story, it made me want to read the book even more.

    I love true crime as it gives an insight into how people operate when presented with decisions to be made. Deeming’s decision making throughout his life and his strategies for maintaining his lies were interesting. Each chapter kept the story going forward and the research and information Mr Linnell provided was insightful.

    I recommend this story to others who enjoy true crime. Mr Linnell is a talented story teller.

  7. Thank you to Beauty & Lace for allowing me to read and review The Devil’s Work by Garry Linnell. Reading the excerpt of this book got my interest immediately, so I was excited to read it.
    This was a book made for me. I relate greatly to the spiritual talk in this book, I’ve had a deep interest into seances, communicating with the dead, etc since I was 10 years old…. even with my all-consuming nature of the topic, I still managed to get a little spooked by some of the details.
    I’ve read many stories on Jack the Ripper but have never heard of Frederick Deeming. A very interesting character indeed. And I’ve not heard of the connection between Jack the Ripper and Frederick Deeming, some believing they’re one in the same.
    This story follows Frederick Deeming’s life as he globe-trots the World leaving death in his wake, only being discovered in 1892 by the Australian police who discovered one of his wives buried in a shallow concrete grave. This discovery led to further findings of more grisly murders.
    This is one true crime story that will stay with me for a long time. Garry Linnell has written a perfectly orchestrated novel that provides plenty of historical data, set the scene for the macabre era of the Victorian days.

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