Murders of London, by David Long

Article published on May 3, 2012.

David Long is a prolific author of pleasingly diverting non-fiction books, most with a London theme.  These include Hidden City: The Secret Alleys, Courts and Yards of London’s Square Mile, and When Did Big Ben First Bong?  As its title would suggest, in Murders of London, Long turns an eye towards the capital’s dark history.  Across 250 glossy, illustrated pages, it offers precis of numerous true crimes, broken up geographically, as opposed to the more traditional chronological or alphabetical arrangements seen in books of its type.

The approach, and indeed the book’s small size, are no doubt geared towards ease of use.  Murders of London is something of a guidebook for ghouls, pocket-sized and ready to be whipped out during bloodthirsty tours of the capital, the like of which are perennial favourites with tourists.  As a guidebook, it will work best for non-locals when used in conjunction with an A-Z of the city.  While it does include addresses of murder sites right down to the house number, it would be unwise to navigate London with only Murders of London as a guide.

As a book for home-reading, it is surprisingly broad in scope.  It incorporates murders from across the spectrum of criminality, including legal landmark cases, domestic terrorism, espionage, crimes of passion and gangland killings.  True crime’s most notorious moments are given an airing, with chapters on Christie, Haigh and the Ripper appearing alongside more obscure killings.  Indeed, even the most die-hard true crime enthusiasts will be hard-pushed to not find an unheard of case in Murders of London.

Given the book’s length and the number of cases crowbarred into it, each chapter is no more than four pages long, including a page of illustrating photos.  Murders of London is not an encyclopaedia, and readers seeking for such a thing should look elsewhere.  Instead, it works well as an engaging diversion for true crime fans to thumb through.  Chapters are impressively succinct, with Long managing in most cases to include background, commission, investigation and punishment.  Long’s concision brings out the best in the subject matter, although Murders of London could perhaps have been improved by a bibliography.  Fans of the genre will likely find that many of the more little-known crimes merit further study, although in fairness, the age of the internet search engine makes this less of an issue.

Overall, Murders of London is a slick little book, rich in information and entertainment value; an ideal gift for the true crime fan in your life.

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