Suzanne Falkiner is the author of twelve books of fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent titles include the biographies Joan in India (2008), The Imago: E. L. Grant Watson & Australia (2011), Mrs Mort’s Madness (2014) and Mick: A life of Randolph Stow (2016). She has been shortlisted in the Vogel Award, the Kibble Award, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award, and the NSW History Awards. Suzanne lives in Sydney.
Publication typeePub / Digital / Non-fiction / Print
Publication DateDecember 2014
Number of Pagesapprox 304 pages
Mrs Mort’s Madness
Foreword by Gideon Haigh
Four days before Christmas in 1920, Dorothy Mort shot her lover dead in cold blood. The tragic end to her affair with dashing young doctor, cricket star and War hero, Dr Claude Tozer, scandalised Sydney. Dorothy’s respectable husband was devastated.
Following a trial that mesmerised the public and sent the media into a frenzy, the troubled North Shore mother of two and budding actress was declared ‘not guilty on the ground of insanity’.
After nine years in Long Bay Gaol, Dorothy was released and returned to live quietly with her husband . . . But was she really mad, or bad, or neither? And what was the secret that her husband kept for the rest of his life?
In an absorbing blend of investigative non-fiction and biography, Suzanne Falkiner delves into the case that has intrigued Sydney for almost 100 years.
‘Suzanne Falkiner’s Mrs Mort’s Madness is not a cricket book: it is a carefully assembled but highly readable account of a sensational crime. … Nearly a century after it transfixed Sydney, Suzanne has at last rounded the story out.’ – Gideon Haigh
‘Mrs Mort’s Madness comes with a skilled writer’s passion for impressive research and digging up a good yarn. Suzanne Falkiner has the right balance of fact, supposed history and storytelling enabling the characters to tell their side of the mystery in their own voice. A sizzler.’ – Warren Fahey, The Sydney Morning Herald
‘A valuable addition the genre of Australian true crime writing.’ – Mark Tedeschi QC
‘Ultimately, Falkiner does not promote a particular view as to whether Ms Mort was actually ‘mad’ at the time she killed her lover, or just ‘a woman spurned’. However, the options she raises with subtlety and sensitivity are tantalising, real questions about whether Ms Mort’s homicidal conduct was the result of psychotic illness or premeditatedly murderous behaviour, camouflaged by feigned mental illness. Mrs Mort’s Madness is absorbing reading for a rainy day.’ – Ian Freckelton, Psychiatry, Psychology and Law
‘True crime stories are gripping, especially when the grisly details of the crime are matched by lashings of romance, passion and tragedy. Author Suzanne Falkiner combines the conventions of good investigative writing and biography with ‘imaginative reconstruction’ to create a captivating account of this true crime that examines the tragedy behind the headline-grabbing event. Thorough research enables her to draw rich and colourful portrayals of all the characters, mapping their interconnected and claustrophobic social connections and revealing the discreet decadence beneath the respectable social veneer.’ – Kay Donovan, U: magazine
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An excerpt from Mrs Mort’s Madness by Suzanne Falkiner
It was the white cockatoo that first led them to the murder, they told me. Or was it the mis-delivered parcel?
I had knocked at their door once before, but the small cottage in the northern Sydney suburb of Lindfield was unwilling to give up its secrets. I had no idea who lived there now, and with a change of street name in the intervening years, I was not even certain I had the right address.
Beyond a cascade of silver North Shore commuters’ cars flowing homeward on Tryon Road, I found some disused-looking stone steps, a rusted gate overgrown with shrubs, and a concrete path winding steeply upward. I hesitated at first, unsure of my welcome. Dark blue hydrangeas and drooping palms lent the garden an air of somnolence in the late afternoon, almost of other-worldliness, and so I was not surprised when the old-fashioned electric door bell sounded emptily in the interior and no one responded.
An even narrower path led around the side, but my imagination was already at work and I did not want to be challenged for trespassing. I retreated to my car and made a rough sketch in my notebook: a classic pre-war double-fronted Californian bungalow built on damp sandstone foundations, with a small covered porch and a miniature verandah to the right, its original wooden half-shingles and white-painted timber trim all still intact. Then I walked around by the main road to Owen Street at the back, where my snooping over the fence revealed a more ordinary modern extension and garage. I lingered too long, and a dog began to bark.
When I tried again some weeks later, a teenage girl came to the door and silenced the barking dog to tell me her parents were not at home. I gave her my telephone number. Perhaps they would call me? Research, I said, for a biography. Someone of interest had once lived in the house. I would like to talk to them, and perhaps even to see inside, if they were willing.
Shortly after, sitting on a rose chintz sofa in a drawing room pleasantly cluttered with English porcelain and framed family photographs, I told them what I knew. The house had been called ‘Ingelbrae’ in the early part of the last century and someone had been murdered here, in this very room. The murderer, a Mrs Mort, had shot her doctor as he sat on her sofa writing a prescription. She was thought to be mad, I added, but I was not so sure.