REVIEW: Blackmail, Sex, and Lies: A Victorian True Crime Murder Mytery

REVIEW: Blackmail, Sex, and Lies: A Victorian True Crime Murder Mytery

Blackmail, Sex and Lies: A Victorian True Crime Murder Mystery

By: Kathryn McMaster

Overdue Book Reviews is participating in a blog tour Blackmail, Sex and Lies: A Victorian True Crime Murder Mystery.  Yesterday, I posted a Q&A with Kathryn McMaster on my blog.  Today’s post is a review of her true crime story.  Check out some of the other blogs promoting McMaster’s latest work!

GIVEAWAY: Kathryn McMaster has kindly offered a free copy of her book to one of my readers.  Just comment below for a chance to win!  A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, December 14th.   


Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a story of deception, scandal, and fractured traditional Victorian social values. It is the tale of a naïve, young woman caught up in a whirlwind romance with a much older man. However, both have personality flaws that result in poor choices, and ultimately lead to a tragic end.

For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?

This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier. After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents’ wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.

Sadly, insane jealous rages, and threats of blackmail, are suddenly silenced by an untimely death.


Before reading this book, I had never heard of the Madeleine Smith case.  I certainly cannot say that now.  The book opens in 1850’s Scotland where we meet Emile L’Angelier, a despondent man who has no luck with money or love.   He’s unable to keep a lover and desperately wants to climb the social ladder when he meets Madeleine.  Madeline Smith, a rich socialite, lives under the authority of her father and is carefully seduced by Emile who is intrigued by her vivacity and social standing. 

The drama and mental instability of L’Angelier is evident from the beginning, but Madeleine’s susceptibility to his seduction is understandable.  As they continue their secret affair, the reader is treated to the actual correspondence between them until the relationship is broken off and Emile ends up dead. 

Kathryn McMaster’s skilled fictionalization of the case kept me turning the pages.  I was drawn in, not only by the rich characterizations of Emile and Madeleine, but also by her superb attention to detail.  I can’t say that I *liked* either person, but I felt their story keenly.  McMaster reveals the story between the two ill-fated lovers using their own letters,  news clippings, photographs, a lot of historical research and just the right amount of dramatization. 

This is an excellent and creative take on true crime. I enjoyed the books as much for the historical research as the true crime.  The details of mid-19th century Glasglow came to life on the page:  the streets and shops of the town, the division between the classes, the sensational effect of crime and trials in the town. 

If you like true crime, history, or sensational stories, you ought to pick up Blackmail, Sex and Lies. Besides,  you will need to read to find out if Madeleine killed her lover or if, perhaps, there is another explanation.


Kathryn McMaster is a writer, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and champion of good indie authors. She co-owns the book promotion company One Stop Fiction (, where readers can sign up to receive news of free and discounted 4 and 5 star reviewed books. She is also a bestselling author of historical murder mysteries set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Her debut novel, “Who Killed Little Johnny Gill?” was well received. All her novels are based on true stories, and she melds fact with fiction, writing in the creative nonfiction style. She lives on her 30 acre farm in the beautiful Casentino Valley, Italy for 6 months of the year, and during the other half of the year, on the small island of Gozo, Malta.

You can purchase your copy of Love, Sex and Blackmail at the following links:

Purchase from Amazon UK – Lies-Victorian- Mystery-ebook/dp/B0758DV8CY

Purchase from – Lies-Victorian- Mystery-ebook/dp/B0758DV8CY/

If you missed the Q&A with Kathryn McMaster, you can access it here!