The Lady in the Cellar by Sinclair McKay

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Lady in the Cellar:

A lady in the cellar and a lot of bats in the belfry.

Quick synopsis:

A true crime story about a woman murdered in a boarding house in the late 1800s.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Asian décor was big in the late 1800s of London.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

This book is full of interesting stuff. The research done to identify the previous history of all the subjects as well as having a firm grip of London during the late 1800s. Most impressively, the description of the mental hospitals is clear and free from clichés.

My Take on The Lady in the Cellar:

This book is truly good from beginning to end. McKay found a very interesting case to write about and the characters are full fleshed out by his research. McKay also does an excellent job of clearly describing each setting as he moves from London, to the boarding house, to the mental hospital and back again.

The story has enough twists and turns to almost make you doubt its authenticity if not for very clear primary sources to pull from. Often, historical true crime can get very bogged down in unimportant things or the crime is so straightforward to the reader that it loses interest. This crime is the opposite. You think you know what happened, then you don’t, and then you might again.

In under 300 pages, McKay keeps the book moving at a very good pace while making sure to give all the details you need to picture the action. Additionally, McKay’s scenario of what probably occurred is earned through the previous evidence presented rather than the author pulling out new evidence or conjecture to convince the reader.


This book is a lot of fun in a macabre sense. If you are not into historical true crime, then the book won’t change your mind. McKay moves at a deliberate pace and the twists and turns are not as grand as something you might find in a John Grisham novel. Also, while McKay’s murder scenario is believable, we will never know for sure. Sorry folks with true crime OCD! Can’t be sure about this one! Buy it here!

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2 responses to “The Lady in the Cellar by Sinclair McKay”

  1. Mom Avatar

    Bring it with you. You know I love true crime

    1. Brendan Dowd Avatar

      It’s been taken. You waited too long.

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