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on 30 December 2012
My own childhood was spent in several small Cheshire towns all close to Hyde and I remember, so well, how the people there spoke and behaved. I remember how we kids played in the streets, or in the woods or down by the river, or out on our bikes from morning till night without parents giving it a thought. I remember the streets of terraced houses, every one of them containing (as Emlyn Williams's bewildered policeman commented, when summoned so urgently to number 16, Wardle Brook Avenue) "a budgie and a Grannie". I remember the bread deliveries in the mornings, the everlasting soft rain, the factory smoke, the children in pixie hoods, how people reacted and how everybody spoke.
Writing immediately after the Moors trial and before so many further facts became known Emlyn Williams, in 1967, got all this nevertheless so exactly right; he was not a great playwright for nothing. If I read his book I am back in that place, at that time. What a pity, really, that such terrible events had to happen around the Hyde district before such a book came to be written but in spite of that, and whatever its factual omissions or inaccuracies, I still think it is a masterpiece.
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on 1 March 2016
Had to give up on this a quarter of the way through. Although I am really interested in the subject, the print is too small and it's written in accents which is difficult to follow. Worth considering before you buy.
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on 14 July 2009
While there can be doubt that Emlyn Williams did a great job in writing and researching this book I feel it is overall a book of its time. At times the story reads like a classic murder mystery except we all know "who dunnit" already. The modern day true crime biography is written in a more factual manner and that is what I was expecting. I am not saying that this is the definitive way in which a book like this should be written but I do prefer it to the imaginary conversations that seem to pepper Beyond Belief. Which brings me to the most irritating aspect of this book. The grammar. The schizophrenic way in which Williams jumps from one person to another by way of phonetic spelling is incredibly distracting. One moment you are reading the supposed musings of Ian Brady (written so as to be interpreted as a thick Glaswegian accent) and before you know it, halfway through the paragraph you actually find out that you are now reading Myra's. No quotation marks. No Full stops. And no commas, Time and time again I had to keep re-reading sentences whilst trying not to apply a Scottish accent to absolutely everyone! As I say a good read but overall very trying.
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on 15 October 2014
One of the first books about the crimes - but again, its just a re-hash of other books previously published. Highly biased opinions - myriad incorrect facts about both the crimes and those involved, holds on to untrue rumour and reports them as hard fact. Inaccuracies aren't the worst thing about this book - it seems to me to be a journalistic, highly dramatized account of the circumstances, victims and perpetrators of the crime - it is not an accurate account by a long shot! In my opinion, don't waste your money - if you are interested in this subject, there are plenty of other good, accurate books out there that go not down the sensationalist self satisfying routes this book does
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on 28 July 2015
I have found this book very difficult to get into, but am still trying and sticking with it.
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on 7 May 2013
I didn't like the way this was written, written with the northern accent which made it difficult to read at times, also written a lot in Myras head, in her thoughts at the time which seemed sympathetic, i would prefer to just read facts, that seems like opinion to me... But not all bad, worth a read if your really interested in reading about this fram all angles, but i have read better on it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 December 2007
I have always had what is a probably morbid interest in the appalling 'moors' case, and 'Beyond Belief' was the first book I purchased on these heinous crimes which took place around Manchester between 1963 to 1965. This was originally published in hardback in 1967, a year after Ian Brady and Myra Hindley's imprisonment, and long before a wealth of revealing and important information came to light. At the time, no one apart from the murderers themselves even knew for certain that the couple had murdered another two children (though the disappearances of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett are mentioned briefly in the appendix under the heading 'Two Mysteries'), in fact, it was only in 1987 when Brady finally confessed this to a journalist.

My favourite true crime book is Truman Capote's classic text 'In Cold Blood', and on it's release, 'Beyond Belief' was hailed in various circles as the UK equivalent. In some ways I would go along with that, but the latter is far superior.

This book almost reads like an old-fashioned 'who-dunnit' until half way through, only we already know from the start who did it. The main problem here is that this one is so very heavy on the part fiction, and many of Williams' theories, which he wrote to fill in the gaps, such as how the poor child victims were lured to their deaths, have proven to be either rather inaccurate, or disproved completely. Williams was a good player writer for certain, but his frequent use of accents (Glaswegian for Brady, Mancunian for Hindley) will no doubt confuse some of it's readers.

I have to say that even at the time of the book's release, I believe that Williams was trying to portray characters, and he certainly exaggerated a lot. I think that another one of the biggest faults I have with the book is that I didn't like the way in which it portrays Hindley as a simple follower of her boyfriend (portrayed as some kind of genius, when in reality, he was a very dull man indeed), with no real mind of her own. Although, in all fairness, it wasn't known at the time just how much this ice cold witch was willing to take part in such evil.

However, 'Beyond Belief' is still not without it's merits. The first chapters describing the disappearances of the children, twelve year old John Kilbride and ten year old Lesley Ann Downey are chilling, upsetting, and very well written. After the rather messy chapters describing Hindley and Brady's years leading up to their arrest, the reader is then informed about what really happened after the final murder, the brutal axing of a seventeen year old boy named Edward Evans, and this is when the book's style changes, and the actual story is then told rather than how it 'could have been'. Certainly Williams did his homework, he penned very detailed accounts of the killers' childhoods, the writing is excellent in several parts, and the reader is never really fooled entirely because before the book starts, Emlyn Williams did say that his work was only part truth.

Despite these plus points, 'Beyond Belief' has certainly not aged well. If you are looking for the real facts, pick up Carol Ann Lee's acclaimed biography of Myra Hindley, it's called One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley, and really is the definitive account of these monstrous acts.

I'd advise you to only purchase this book after you know the facts. It was perhaps one of the best books at the time (there were a couple of truly dire tomes which appeared on the bookshelves several months before), and Williams made the most of what was available. He did interview several key players in the tragedy, including young David Smith, Hindley's brother-in-law who witnessed the final murder, and his wife, Myra's sister Maureen. His main source of information appears to have come from the mother of young Patty Hodges, the little girl who lived just a few houses away, and accompanied the twisted couple to the moors, including the day before ten year old victim Lesley Ann Downey, but so much more information has subsequently come to light over the years.

On a whole, I think that 'Beyond Belief' is a good novel, and the way Williams described the settings managed to put the reader 'right there', but I don't understand why to this day it is often referred to as the 'definitive' account, that it most definitely isn't.

Photographs are pretty central to the case, but there are none to be found inside here. I know that a good book doesn't necessarily need any pictures, but they would have been useful, particularly before the days of the internet where we can now easily find them after a quick search.

I guess that hindsight and new revelations has devalued 'Beyond Belief' over the years, because at one time - I can well imagine it being considered an excellent book. Now, it's basically just a story based on real, dreadful happenings. If you want to read the best of the contemporary accounts, then try to find a copy of the rare factual book by David Marchbanks, 1966's red-jacketed The moor murders, where you'll learn far more.
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on 18 November 2002
For me Emlyn Williams captures the dreadful scenes and circumstance all too clearly. As someone who was growing up at the time in that area, it brings home, the culture, the environment and the sadly naive world in which we lived then. His use of the narrative to bring home the events works extremely well, yes attempted use of a Northern accent doesn't always work, but in this case, he just about carries it. The descriptions, in some cases are brutal, but the portrayal of the dogged detective work that paid off in the end, stunning. ...
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on 16 November 2002
I wasn't born until 1971, so the dreadful crimes of these two didn't mean much to me until I bought this book in 1994. Fair enough, a lot of it IS surmise; Emlyn Williams guesses at dialogue, and fills in the blanks between facts with fiction, but, in my eyes, it's almost as if he were there with them! Certainly a book worth buying, as it is chilling as it is fascinating.
If, like me, you want an insight into the pair, from their births to their incarceration, then this is the book for you.
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on 16 February 2008
I was a teenager at the time of the Moors Murders, so can remember the press coverage generated. This book, although now overtaken by events and more recently revealed information, does convey a sense of time and place very well. Emlyn Williams states that part of the work is 'surmise' which is inevitable as the book was written so soon after the events, but it does carry you along and works at putting you into the minds of the murderers. A recomended read.
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