The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream

The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer

Reviewed by Kate Jaimet

Posted January 13, 2023

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream plunges readers into a soot-blackened Victorian underworld where prostitutes stroll the outskirts of polite society and class privilege serves as a cover for crime.

Born in Scotland in 1850 and raised in Quebec City, Thomas Neill Cream studies medicine at Montreal’s McGill University at a time when students are notorious for robbing graves to obtain fresh corpses for dissection. After graduation, Cream’s life takes a turn for the tawdry as he trades the ivory tower for a career as a backroom abortionist, first in Ontario and then in New England. Though abortion is illegal, authorities turn a blind eye unless the procedure results in the death of the patient. In the case of Dr. Cream’s patients, this occurs with disturbing frequency.

After the death of his wife under fishy circumstances and several brushes with the law — including a stint in an Illinois prison — Cream decides to make a new start in England. Boarding a ship bound for Blighty, he makes the acquaintance of a pharmaceutical salesman who provides him with an easy and ongoing supply of medicines — and poisons. When prostitutes begin turning up mysteriously dead in London, suspicion eventually falls on the doctor. It’s a cat-and-mouse game to see if Scotland Yard can find the evidence to convict him of murder.

Author Dean Jobb, an award-winning writer who specializes in true crime, evokes the demented doctor in skin-crawling detail and supplements the narrative of Cream’s sordid misdeeds with plenty of background information about Victorian police procedure. This book will appeal to fans of true crime and anyone with a penchant for Gothic literature.

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This article originally appeared in the February-March 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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