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