Early in her book about the case of George Edalji, the solicitor convicted of animal maiming in 1903 and later freed from penal servitude following a campaign spearheaded by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shrabani Basu suggests that the story has been forgotten. This may be true for those who have not read Julian Barnes’s 2005 Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Arthur and George, which is based on the story, or indeed those who did not watch the television adaptation of that book in 2015. She also claims that the crime was the most sensational in Edwardian Britain. This too may be true if you discount the Camden Town murder and Dr Crippen’s murder of his wife.
Despite the hyperbole, however, the story Basu tells is extraordinary if, sadly, unsurprising. Edalji’s father, Shapurji, was a Parsee who converted to Christianity as a young man in his native Bombay and moved to England. Here he was ordained, married an Englishwoman called Charlotte Stoneham and became the first Asian