It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

Murders of London – David Long

Review by Martin J Frankson.

“Bear in mind these dead:
I can find no plainer words.”
John Hewitt

Think of the room you’re in now.

How long has that room been there?

What emotions and dramas have played out on life’s living stage where you are sitting now?  All those conversations and emotions have gone somewhere you know.

They don’t simply vanish.

Murders of London, by David Long, is a deliciously dark and glossy compendium of both notorious (Denis Neilson) and lesser known (Franz Muller – Britain’s first train murderer) London murders and murderers spanning the nineteenth century to the present day.  Each story is told succinctly yet in good detail, without falling into the trap of reading like teletype.  Addresses are given along with contemporary photos of the buildings that hosted these evil deed(s), allowing those of us of a more macabre bent to visit these sites virtually or in person.

Certain stories may jump out at you for no reason.

One which did just this for me was the case of the murder of Elsie Batten in 1951 by 21 year old Edwin Bush.  The address of the antique shop where she worked and met her fate is 23 Cecil Court, London – now Goldsboro Books.  I realised while reading it that I visited this shop only last year without knowing its history at the time.

Some stories have ossified with history and you may read them as though they are now just good old yarns.  Others may leave you cold for the fact is, the dead can sometimes stop you in your tracks and remind you that they too were alive. 

Just like you. 

For now.

Many of the older premises are no more, with newer, shinier edifices taking their places but some remain curiously in place and unchanged; they are very much still with us (unlike some of their unfortunately erstwhile guests).  Denis Neilson’s old flat in Muswell Hill for instance.  Going by the photo, it looks like someone actually lives in it.  Don’t they know what happened in it? 

But then again, do you know what happened in yours? 

You might be a little surprised.

This is a great little book, surprisingly full of detail and very well researched.  The stories are written with a humanity that is rarely found in a book of this type.

The only criticism I would have is that the book would benefit from an index or a map; even so, I would fully recommend this book for lovers of the darker side of life’s long and winding streets.

Murders of London is published by Random House and available now.


3 comments on “Murders of London – David Long

  1. Sarah
    May 10, 2012

    Sounds like an interesting book although I don’t read much true crime. I’ll look out for it.

  2. herschelian
    May 16, 2012

    I love local history, I am a Londoner by adoption (even though I am now living in Beijing), and I am an avid crime reader, so this book sounds right up my street – so to speak. I have noticed that some of the London streets in which notorious murders were committed had their names changed afterwards as local residents didn’t like being associated with the crime whenever they had to give their address! Another thing – years ago when I took some out-of-town visitors to Mme Tussauds, specifically the Chamber of Horrors, a much higher proportion of grisly crimes occured in North London…..who knows why!

    On a personal note – when my husband and I married, way back in the mists of time, our Bestman and his wife lived in a lovely small flat in Islington. When they bought it it was in a helluva state and the wallpaper had hundreds of patches where something had obviously been stuck up. Anyway, long story short, we all set to and helped them redecorate. Come the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (1977) there were street parties everywhere and Noel Road was no exception. Bestman’s wife was serving sausage rolls etc when two old ladies said that they couldn’t understand how she could bear to live in Flat X, at number X Noel Road. She said ‘why?’ and they told her that it was because of the murder there…she freaked out and refused to go back into her own flat, which they sold immediately It was their flat where the playwright Joe Orton was bludgeoned to death by his lover Kenneth Halliwell who subsequently committed suicide, and it had lain empty until they bought it!! The patches on the wallpaper were where Orton and Halliwell had stuck pictures which they had cut out of Islington library books.

    • crimeficreader
      May 16, 2012

      Thanks for leaving a comment herschelian, and these interesting stories that you have shared. I wonder about the flat’s occupancy now…

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on May 10, 2012 by in Book Review, Books, Crime non-fiction and tagged , .
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