1941, Jocelyn Hay, Earl of Errol, was shot in Kenya. The death of the debauched jetsetter at the heart of Kenya’s Happy Valley set gave the tabloids a heyday and rumours were ripe. The murderer was never apprehended. A new book tries to pin down a new suspect.
Between the wars, Happy Valley in Kenya was the playground for the rich and the bored. At the centre of the jet setting set gathered were the Earl and the Countess of Errol (the Earls of Errol are related to Conservative leader David Cameron). Their parties were famous, going on for days at a time. Party games included guess the penis and male guests would take their drinks in the bathroom while the countess took a bath. And the Tories and most notably David Cameron are bemoaning broken Britain today?
The son of one of the jetsetters is author Paul Spicer and he has spent years collecting data on the murder while trying to implicate one of the central figures of the Happy Valley set with the murder: Alice, Countess de Janze. He interviewed late survivors as well as descendants of people involved with the Happy Valley set and built his case upon this evidence.
Alice Silverthorne was the daughter of a Buffalo millionaire in a time when being a dollar millionaire still meant something. She was shipped off to Paris by her family over the fear of a local misalliance. Once there, she noticed that as an American heiress she was nobody in polite circles, but that the doors to become a titled somebody were wide open. She lost no time in marrying Count Frederic de Janze.
After producing him two daughters in short succession, he sent her off to Happy Valley to recuperate from the stress and strain upon an invitation by the Earl and Countess of Errol with whom they were acquainted through the Paris set. After becoming the mistress of Jocelyn, she persuaded her husband to buy a property in the Valley.
Once settled in, she fell madly for Raymund de Trafford, younger son of an English Baronet and a compulsive gambler. She started to think about divorce from Frederic and travelled to Paris with Raymund in tow to pursue this end. But her beau had other ideas and told her so upon arrival in Paris (after she had paid for the tickets, obviously).
She went out to buy a colt, came home and shot Raymund in the chest before shooting herself. Tabloids the world over were frantic with news and updates while the two recovered in hospital. Once recuperated, she was handed a six months suspended sentence as even the judges went all mushy over the Frenchs’ favourite form of violence: a crime of passion.
She finally got her way, her divorce, and her marriage to Raymund. The marriage was made in hell, and she lost no time in divorcing him as well. As a consequence, she took up her entanglement with the Earl of Errol again.
The arrival of Sir Jock Delves Broughton and his wife Diana brought upheaval into the Happy Valley and in Diana a new player in the games. Errol lost no time in fixing his interest with her, and in consequence Diana refused all suitors who weren’t at least titled, leaving to Alice but the jetsam and flotsam to pick her lovers from.
The night Sir Jock announced his intention to divorce his wife at a party with a backhanded toast to Errol and Diana was the night Errol was shot at a crossroad after bringing Diana home. Sir Jock was charged with and consequently cleared of the murder. Alice was never even considered to be a suspect due to the alibi provided by her current lover. She committed suicide some time later, leaving letters to her lover and her daughters on her desk, as well as a suicide note and a letter addressed to the police. This last letter has disappeared.
The Temptress: The Scandalous Life Of Alice, Countess De Janze by Paul Spicer was published by Simon & Schuster. In it, the author builds a good case for his theory but fails to solve the puzzle completely. The book offers fascinating insights into the times and the places, though, and crime lovers should get it and have a try at unravelling the puzzle themselves. On the other hand I have to admit that I find books problematical that are published after all the witnesses cited are dead, as I stated in Reincarnated WWII Hero.
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