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The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders 1811 [Paperback]

Baroness P. D. James
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders 1811 The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders 1811 3.7 out of 5 stars (18)
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Book Description

6 Nov 2000

In 1811 John Williams was buried with a stake in his heart. Was he the notorious East End killer or his eighth victim in the bizarre and shocking Ratcliffe Highway Murders? In this vivid and gripping reconstruction P. D. James and T. A. Critchley draw on public records, newspaper clippings and hitherto unpublished sources, expertly sifting the evidence to shed new light on this infamous Wapping mystery.

'James and Critchley evoke the horror of a dark, wintry London where ill-prepared authorities struggle to bring a major murder case to its conclusion.' Crime Times

'A model demonstration of how to assess fragmentary and often tantalising evidence . . . It makes an enthralling story.' New York Times



Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (6 Nov 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571202829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571202829
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,077,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description

Book Description

P. D. James's only work of true crime: a historical mystery every bit as gripping as her bestselling novels. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

P. D. James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of the Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council, and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London. She is an Honorary Bencher of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature (US). She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983, and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating... 1 July 2004
Format:Paperback
this book is about more than the murder of innocent victims...it is also very much a social history of times, people and places. The authors tell the tale of the murders well, intertwined with what life was like for the poor in 1811, how they lived, what they ate, how they socially mixed with one another. The absence of a police force shows how vital clues were not followed through, silly, stupid mistakes were common, and information was certainly not to be shared. excellent read, one that deserves some thinking time after each chapter to appreciate its content.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and policing in early 19th century. 11 Mar 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a vivid and detailed description of a number of brutal murders in the East End of London. In addition, piecing together the efforts of the police to identify and apprehend those responsible. The totally inadequate policing structure prior to these murders forces the Government to change the police structure, taking steps which led to the police as we know it today.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book has it all 28 July 2011
Format:Paperback
I did not know what to expect when I bought this book. I thought it might just be full of gore given the nature of the crimes but I was wrong. True there is an element of brutality present, that is to be expected but the quality of this book is in the writing, mainly the way the cases are presented interwoven with the state of policing 2 centuries ago. The way this book is structured is pure mastery. At times it reads as a contemporary thriller-murder mystery and at other times it is a research paper which is very digestable.
I was left with the extreme gratitude that I did not live in England 200 years ago as things were rather chancy back then to say the least, I loved the morality put forward as to the how the victoms were judged by the public ,crime by crime. I would recommend this book for those who want to place themselves in the past and enjoy the thrill of a dark and cold London anno 1811.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old but gold 7 April 2011
Format:Paperback
I came across this book as a result of reading the much more recent "The Invention of Murder" by Judith Flanders.

This is an old book,originally published some decades ago, but noetheless readable or interesting for that. As a friend of mind said (after reading it on my recommendation) "the combination of a criminologist and a fiction writer works really well".

PD James is, of course, well known as a long-standing and eminent writer of detective fiction.

The case involves two sets of very bloody murders in a very short period of time and close proximity. The search for the murderer, the suspect's fate and the possible alternative candidate as killer provide the narrative backbone of the book.

So far as this "true-crime" valume is concerned, the period, the location and the characters (and what an incredible crowd they are) come alive. The tragedy of these awful crimes - and they were tragic on several levels - is well brought out. The only oddity (for me - and the reason this has been given 4 rather than 5 stars) is that the authors' solution seems very brief and almost "tacked on". I would like to have seen this explanation gone into in a little more depth. But that does not detract from the book as a whole.

For those who have not already discovered this book, I recommend it, whether you like a mystery, are into the social history of London or the Georgian period, or just want to enjoy a darned good read
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed analysis of an old crime 15 May 2011
By Bluebell TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This must have been one of PD James first excursions into detective writing having originally been written in 1971. She and her co-writer try to reconstruct and analyze the evidence from a couple of savage multiple murders that happened in 1811 in London's East End within one month of each other. The book starts with an atmospheric and lively description of life in the area and then proceeds into a very detailed account of the amateurish attempts by local magistrates to solve the crime. By today's standards the lack of detective expertise is shocking, but with no police force trained to gather evidence it's not surprising. The narrative is realistic in that the stalled investigation meant that the powers that be were going round in circles trying to find clues and culprits, but I found myself getting a little bored after 200 or so pages as the story meandered in detail. The ending of the book is concerned with the author's attempts to solve the crime but with little success.

The strength of the book is as an historical record of how primitive were the processes of detecting crime and the paucity of protection for people accused of a crime.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars graet 23 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love a murder and this one places it well in time and place so the context is clear . Splendid stuff
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mall and Pear Tree 8 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Being a true story was not as good as her imaginative usual books, but still enjoyable, and a good sense of the age in which it occurred.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enthralling 13 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
well written well researched unputdownable brings a long distant murder into the spotlight good historical background a very absorbing book
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of date
This book attempts to solve the alleged miscarraige of justice of the Ratcliffe Highway murders back in Georgian times. Read more
Published 6 months ago by JB
3.0 out of 5 stars Complicated
To much detail,meaning that it was easy to lose the thread of the enquiry into the murders However P.D James covers every angle.
Published 9 months ago by Margaret Sedley
4.0 out of 5 stars Quality true crime
This book reaches the standard required of a single-subject true-crime book. All the facts are there, with little or no speculative waffle, and the writing is of the quality you... Read more
Published 10 months ago by 'Fountain Pen'
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going but entertaining
It was hard going and because it is partly a reference book reading it on a kindle can be annoying as any notes relating to bits of the book are at the end of a chapter. Read more
Published 22 months ago by twinkle
2.0 out of 5 stars A dry and rather disappointing retelling of a horrific series of...
I'd heard of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders through an episode of Whitechapel, but I didn't really know very much about them. Read more
Published on 29 July 2012 by C. Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars good
This book was very interesting i fiorst heard about this story on ITV's Whitechapel, a very interesting story. Read more
Published on 9 May 2012 by History Buff
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read
A quite interesting academic study but after a while I got a little bored. I found it rather dry .
Published on 7 May 2012 by David Mckeown
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