Author: Samantha Battams

Publisher/Year: Samantha Battams/2021

Reviewer: Sarah Jackson

Fascinating and engaging

The Rhynie Poisoning Case examines the post-World War One murder of Muriel Lee and three of her children by her husband Alexander Lee. Lee was convicted of the poisoning and was subsequently hanged.

I really admire the tenacity of true-crime authors and their ability to sift through copious amounts of irrelevant information, dubious recollections and, most of all, manage the emotional burden of repeatedly reading and being exposed to some horrific descriptions of crimes and depraved human actions.

Battams is no exception. The book is well-researched and referenced (full reference list at the end of the book), and this is reflected in the thorough and unbiased retelling of the stories of Lee, his family, and associates. Battams’s rigorous review of available media, police and court records of the day provides the reader with an insight into the day-to-day operations of the legal system in South Australia at the time.

Battams captures the hardship of life in the post-war Barossa Valley, especially for those from low socio-economic communities and of German-Prussian heritage. The role of women and children, and their dependence on male relatives is an alarming reminder of our repressive past.

All this is precisely recorded without the drag of some true crime novels with their excessive and unnecessary detail. Included in The Rhynie Poisoning Case is a fascinating series of photos, including some “now and then” shots of the various locations relevant to the story.

I must admit that I had never heard about the Rhynie Poisoning case prior to reading Battams’s book. Being a bit of a true crime (especially historical poisoning cases), I was thrilled to be introduced to this tale.

The Rhynie Poisoning Case by Samantha Battams is gripping, easy to follow and hard to put down. It is not only a fascinating true crime story, but also a record of a period of South Australian legal history. One for lovers of true crime and history.