This is a hardbacked book, well researched and very readable, telling the story of crime and punishment in London from 1381 (Roger Legett – a ‘questmonger’) to Styllou Christofi who killed her daughter-in-law and was hanged in 1954.
I found the stories of the murders, court cases and punishments interesting, but was utterly fascinated by the descriptions of life, society, policing and the strange workings of the law throughout this period. The book covers topics from ‘baby farming’ to highway robbery, whilst describing streets, buildings, professions and moral codes that have long gone. I was interested by the development of policing and forensic science, which are also included.
The book touches on the abolition of hanging (a relief for the Kray twins, convicted of murder shortly afterwards) and the steady rise of the softer treatment of murderesses, particularly attractive ones, as the twentieth century progressed.
I learned that one element of the Peasants’ Revolt was to kill lawyers and other connected with the legal system – an idea which may appeal to certain ARRSErs today!
This is a thoroughly interesting and informative book, and I have no hesitation in giving it four mushroom heads – a great book which no self-respecting ARRSEr should ignore.
Capital Crimes: Seven centuries of London life and murder by Max Decharne published by Random House
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