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Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers and Mysteries in the Blitz

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers and Mysteries in the Blitz [Kindle Edition]

Molly Lefebure
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Gripping . . . like a pitch-dark version of Call the Midwife, dealing with the end of life rather than the beginning. (Sunday Mirror 2013-03-17)

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at mid-century crime-fighting (Independent 2013-04-06)

Book Description

The remarkable memoir of Molly Lefebure, secretary to the Home Office's chief forensic pathologist during the Second World War. NOW ADAPTED FOR TELEVISION, TO BE BROADCAST ON ITV1 in 2013.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder on the Home Front 19 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Molly Lefebure was secretary to the acclaimed forensic pathologist, Dr Keith Simpson, during WWII. This memoir was originally published in 1954 and this welcome reprint is apparently due to the book being televised shortly. Judging by the book, I am sure the television series will be very successful, as this is a wonderful read, with an endearing and charming narrator. Before becoming private secretary to Dr Simpson, Miss Lefebure was a young reporter. However, despite her youth, she was eager to take up her new position and threw herself into non-stop post mortems, coroner's courts, visits to Scotland Yard, prisons, hospitals, tenements and endless bodies. Bodies, she says calmly, "talk". It is fair to say that Miss Lefebure certainly talks for them - her style is chatty, breezy and informal. She obviously gloried in her job and undertook even the most gruesome tasks with calm fortitude.

During this book we hear of many of the cases which Molly Lefebure attended. There are murders - some tragic, some interesting, some sordid and sad. We follow the redoubtable Miss Lerebure as she visits filthy slums, careers down London streets clinging to the back of a jeep, dodges bombs, attends executions and trials. In her chapter about "the gentle art of hanging", her previous career as a journalist leads her to support the press in their feeding and stimulating the public appetite for murders and hangings - the public, she says wisely, "get the kind of newspapers it deserves". Indeed, she is the voice of reason in all situations; discussing the war, poverty, crime and the places she visits in a down to earth way which is really refreshing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate Memoir Of Forensic Pathology 24 July 2013
By ACB (swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER
Molly Lefebure's memoir of her wartime work as secretary to the renowned forensic pathologist Professor Keith Simpson and how he snapped her up, recognising her talents, gives a detailed exposition of how they worked on horrendous murders in a clearly understandable combination. As Molly says after 7-8000 autopsies, "you can eat anywhere once you've eaten a ham sandwich in a morgue". Keeping meticulous records, her training as a journalist was imperative. Keith Simpson was a perfectionist. This book, (originally published in 1954), is still relevant to today's murder enquiries. Without DNA evidence, Simpson was a master at presenting his findings to the coroner and in court.

Molly Lefebure presents a fascinating insight into the days and social circumstances of war time. It is presented in a chapter/case formula. There is no sensationalism, just a portrayal of people ending as victims or perpetrators of crime. Capital punishment was still looming large. The case of Harry Dobkin who murdered his estranged wife and buried her under a slab on the site of a bombed Chapel leading to Albert Pierrepoint's (Chief Executioner) action is an example. Molly describes the hangman as 'a decent bloke doing his job'.

This excellent book has to be read in the context of the times. Advances in forensic science, police procedure, health and safety have entered the frame. The basic methodology of Keith Simpson and his secretary, Molly, have forged the foundations for modern forensic pathology.

The subject of a TV two-parter brought this book to public attention. It stands alone from the programme. Molly died aged 93. As a junior doctor in 1974,I attended an inquest as a witness, full of nerves, Keith Simpson had a few words in my ear. A calming and charming influence.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is not quite what I expected, but was all the better for that!

I came to Murder on the Home Front via a BBC Radio 4 adaptation a few years ago and had been searching for the book ever since. I ordered the Kindle edition in December 2012 and downloaded it the day it was released.

I was expecting the book to read more like the radio adaptation, how wrong I was.

The book is beautifully written, goes into great detail about a number of post mortems with which the author was involved and gives a wonderful insight into the lives of the people involved, on both sides of the law and of the time.

It has both gruesome and hilarious moments. Fascinating reading.

Murder on the Home Front has been made into a two part television series that is due to be shown in April 2013.

Molly Lefebure died aged 93, just before publication of this edition. What a wonderful legacy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A suitable career for a lady? 6 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm not sure why this book has lingered in obscurity for most of it's life...seen as a counterpoint to Keith Simpson's "Forty Years of Murder" it has to have some interest on that score alone.

I thought it was an interesting account of a young lady of her times, breaking with convention and taking up a most unusual occupation at the was never going to be top of the best-sellers list, but very interesting and revealing, (as social comment if nothing else), all the same
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Murders most foul 13 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read Professor Simpson's book 'Forty years of Murder' so I read this one with interest to see it from a different perspective. I did not find this one as interesting. The book doesn't flow easily, being a series of pen pictures of 'orrible deeds attended by the professor and his new assistant. Still an interesting read, never the less.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
An interesting read as memoirs from the war but left me feeling a little flat.
Published 22 days ago by E. Guy
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good reading but would have liked some more interesting cases that she was involved in
Published 1 month ago by Mr. M. G. Potter
4.0 out of 5 stars a job like no other
during the second world war Molly Lefebure becomes secretary to Keith Simpson, eminent forensic pathologist. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kay Coulson
4.0 out of 5 stars Death during war-time
Death in Britain during the WW2 years was not accountable solely to the German Blitz and Doodle-bomb campaigns. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jill Meyer
5.0 out of 5 stars True Crime at it's best
Another excellent book from Molly Lefebure, perhaps better known as secretary Professor Keith Simpson.
True crime at it's best. I loved it
Published 3 months ago by 7omly
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Perspective
Other reviewers have complained about the author's comments of social status, ethnicity and cleanliness - I have to say I did not find this a problem at all, as it reflects the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Reader
Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure is a fascinating account written by a secretary to a London... Read more
Published 4 months ago by the GreatReads!
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking read
The story of a doctor's Secretary whose job entails sitting next to the post mortem table,while her boss dictates his notes whilst working on the corpse. Read more
Published 9 months ago by mark crosby
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Into the world of forensic sceince,Very interesting book if its your idea to see the other side of forensic life this is the book
Published 10 months ago by G. B. Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric
My favourite murder book ever is by Prof Keith Simpson, so it was with great excitement I opened this book by his secretary. Read more
Published 10 months ago by S. Philpott
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