Gordon Burn has already written a book about serial killer Peter Sutcliffe so it should be no surprise (apart from wondering at his stamina for this sort of material) that he has also taken on the macabre story of the Wests. This is a vile catalogue of the manner in which Frederick and Rosemary West raped, tortured and killed. It spares none of the utterly sordid details.
Burn, who has also written two acclaimed novels (Alma Cogan and Fullalove), has opted to apply some of the techniques of fiction to this grisly task. But while this approach does raise ethical questions--he sometimes recounts scenes and emotions that only the participants, and they are dead, could have witnessed--such is his obvious seriousness of intent that these episodes can be justified in narrative terms. The vast compilation of awful but indisputable facts inevitably makes the prosaic detail of the Wests' lives, like Fred's endless DIY and Rose's Sunday lunches, almost unbearably sinister. And the ghastly details of their victims' fates are unspeakably depraved. Britain has seen nothing like this scale of domestic degradation before. But while every reader must decide for themselves how much of this they need to know, and how much they want to know, it is nevertheless right and commendable that Gordon Burn has written this chilling book and thus given people the choice. --Nick Wroe
Happy Like Murderers by David Burke is a true crime classic republished to tie in with the ITV drama based on Fred and Rose West, Appropriate Adult.