Author: Dean Ruxton
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Reviewed by: Orla
This book starts off praising James Berry, the infamous executioner in the 1880’s. He was earmarked as being outstanding in his field of work. He took his job seriously and was methodical and meticulous in his planning of executions. His grandeur reputation made him well sought after. Being in the spotlight he was scrutinised for every decision he made.
Executions were a ritual of entertainment and an ultimate form of justice by those who were wronged. In those trying times an executioner needed to keep a steady head and be fair and just. He had a soft heart and was most concerned that the vile execution act would be done swiftly and not cause any more suffering than needed.
He took on board a tried and trusted method, a certain way of arranging the ropes. Despite his good intentions this proven method failed him on numerous occasions. One unfortunate perpetrator’s head was decapitated. There was a fumbling at another execution when the rope was too long and ended in disaster. He became disgraced and forced to give up his job.
Although Berry mainly executed villains in England he was asked to come to Galway for an urgent execution. The parochial parish was rampant with sensational, salacious gossip stemming from a suspicious murder. All fingers pointed to the obvious murderer but it was hard to believe this culprit carried out this gruesome act alone. These back stories around each execution flesh out the background in a pleasing way.
His journey to Galway was not a smooth one. He overhead thugs spewing threats hinting they were blood thirsty for his blood. He escaped a beating by disguising himself as someone else. There was a lot of vent up hatred and anger for his job occupation. Towards the end of his career Berry faltered numerous times. These catastrophes were viewed as careless and unprofessional and negligent.
He started off with good intentions to provide a substantial wage to feed the many mouths of his large family. This book gives a credible account of what it was like to be executioner and the side effects that comes along by playing God.