John Tawell was a sincere Quaker but a sinning one. Convicted of forgery, he was transported to Sydney, where he opened Australia’s first retail pharmacy and made a fortune. When he returned home to England after fifteen years, he thought he would be welcomed; instead he was shunned.
Then on New Year’s Day 1845 Tawell boarded the 7:42 pm train to London Paddington. Soon, men arrived chasing a suspected murderer – but the 7:42 had departed. The Great Western Railway was experimenting with a new-fangled device, the electric telegraph, so a message was sent: a ‘KWAKER’ man was on the run. The trail became a sensation, involving no apparent weapon, much innuendo, and a pious man desperate to save his reputation – and would usher in the modern communication age.
Told with narrative verve and rich in historical research, this is a delicious true tale of murder and scientific revolution in Victorian England.
‘Fascinating… told by Carol Baxter like a novel, with plenty of tension’
– Independent on Sunday
'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… Totally irresistible.'
'As lively and readable as a crime novel. Normally, that would be good enough; but this is a book of two halves — its unique selling point is the invention of the telegraph'
– The Times
'A fascinating history, mystery and portrait of a complex contradictory man.'
– Daily Mail
'Meticulously researched and thoroughly engrossing.'
– Fiona Rule, author of The Worst Street in London
'A masterful reconstruction of a forgotten story.'
– Siân Rees, author of The Floating Brothel and The Ship Thieves
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