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Wilful Murder
The Sinking of the Lusitania

Diana Preston

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Corgi Books

Published : 2003

Copyright : Diana Preston 2002

ISBN-10 : PB 0-552-99886-9
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-552-99886-4

Publisher's Write-Up

On May 7th, 1915, the Lusitania, a passenger ship, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Atlantic. 1,200 people died. Wilful Murder, the first book to look at this tragedy in its full historical context, is also the first to place the human dimension at its heart. Through first-hand accounts, we relive the splendour of the liner setting sail and the horror of its final moments.

Using British, American and German research material, Diana Preston answers many of the unanswered and controversial questions surrounding the Lusitania: why didn't Cunard heed warnings that the ship was a German target? Had Cunard's offices been infiltrated by German agents? What was really in the Lusitania's hold, and was she armed? Did international outrage change the outcome of the First World War?

And perhaps most importantly, was the Lusitania sacrificed to bring America into the war? Engrossing and brilliantly researched, Wilful Murder casts dramatic new light on one of the world's most famous maritime disasters.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (301108) Rating (8/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 8/10
I knew virtually nothing about the Lusitania other than it was a WWI maritime tragedy on a par with the Titanic in which many people died. That was all I knew until reading this book, and oh, what a book it is. It is not the easiest subject, cloaked as it is in years and propaganda but even so, Preston makes a fabulous effort to cover the whole subject; from the inception of submarine warfare and the archaic "Cruiser Rules" which had governed the merchant shipping in times of war since Henry VIII, to the use of modern scientific techniques and saturated diving to investigate the wreck as late as the 1990s.

Our fascination with the Great Ships and this era of transatlantic glamour is undiminished, the shipping company names of Cunard and the White Star Line evoke images of people floating across the ocean dressing for dinner and playing games on the decks of those floating behemoths. This fascination is compounded by the well known tragedies and the tales of heroism and self sacrifice of another age, of women and children first and bands playing while the ship sinks.

Many of these images are taken from the stories of the Titanic, but the Lusitania's images, only 3 years later, are of a much more staccato nature. Whereas the Titanic took hours from the impact of the ice berg to going under, the Lusitania took only 18 minutes from the strike of a submarine-launched torpedo to sinking.

The over-riding impression that people have of the Lusitania was that it immediately caused America to enter WWI on the side of the allies, and yet this was not actually the case. Preston handles the politics of the era with a deft and concise hand, with names familiar to all being seen in roles for which they are less famous than they would ultimately become.

The political manoeuvrings and propaganda of the time, with the claims and counter claims of Germany, Great Britain and the United States, all keen to be seen as the victim of the piece are analysed clearly. Preston uses her narrative to great effect, including the documented Inquiries into the disaster, personal correspondence of the main protagonists and scientific research published since the sinking to investigate whether there was a conspiracy and if so, who could the finger be pointed at all these years later.

Overall, this book is a triumph, and if you like stories with a hefty dose of human interest, a dastardly enemy, political shenanigans and an intriguing source of conspiracy theory then you will really appreciate this.
Chrissi (30th November 2008)

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