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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dangerous Con Man
Heath was an enigma.He cannot be explained by the school that looks for the roots of criminal behaviour in deprivation and an unloving background.

In this interesting account O'Connor makes clear that Heath was born into a loving middle-class family, educated at a public school and gave no indication as a teenager that he was capable of two terrible crimes-but...
Published 22 months ago by Dr Barry Clayton

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - with some reservations
In many respects, Handsome Brute is a fine book. It is diligently researched, and unlike so much in the true crime genre, is never mawkish nor prurient, but rather, provides a genuinely empathetic portrait of the victims, which never wallows in the grisly details of their deaths. At its heart, this is also a thoughtful, serious attempt to understand Neville Heath's...
Published 20 months ago by nottingdale


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dangerous Con Man, 23 Feb 2013
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Heath was an enigma.He cannot be explained by the school that looks for the roots of criminal behaviour in deprivation and an unloving background.

In this interesting account O'Connor makes clear that Heath was born into a loving middle-class family, educated at a public school and gave no indication as a teenager that he was capable of two terrible crimes-but then this is not all that unique.

Conceited and charming he took advantage of a society that was easilt taken in by a nice accent and good looks.

Obsessed with flying he joined the RAF but was sacked for stealing. He then joined the South African Air Force but was again kicked out. Umbelievably, he was able to rejoin the RAF (they were desparate for flyers) and he took part in Bomber Command's war time exploits. He displayed outstanding bravery on one sortie when he rescued his navigator in their burning aircraft.For this he should have been awarded a medal.

This was the same man that sadistically murdered two women after the war.
He never tried to deny the murders claiming that he had blacked out on each occasion.

Sensibly, the author does not try to explain why Heath committed these gruesome murders. No one will ever know. Those who blame his war time experiences are on very thin ground. I know many ex service personnel who went through every form of hell in battle but lived perfectly normal lives after the fighting ended.
We should also remember that between 1940 and 1945 thousands of 'normal' Germans slaughtered in camps and on the battlefield millions of innocent civilians.

What this book demonstrates is that despite advances in psychiatry we are still a very long way from being able to fathom the workings of the mind.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for readers of true crime., 18 Mar 2013
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This is very well written in an unsensational way. I already had a copy of Notable British Trials dealing with this case but they, of course, do not give an idea of the psyche of the murderer. I was so wrapped up in this book I felt I was at the cinema and it was being played out before me. What a terrible tragedy, apart from the dreadful crimes, the whole thing was ruining many peoples lives for ever. Sean O'Connor has written a brilliant, in depth, analysis of this case without resorting to cheap sensationalism which so often happens. Too complex a character for any but the trained psychoanalyst to be able to start to fathom. Only one gripe, I would have like an index that would have been the icing on the cake.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 10 Mar 2013
By 
D. E. Condon "Hector" (Shaftesbury, Dorset) - See all my reviews
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This book gives a wonderful picture of wartime England and the emotional as well as the material impact it had on the people . I had some small knowledge of Neville Heath, mostly glamourized, but this book puts me right in a truthful yet compassionate way. without any sense of melodrama the Heath appears to have been doomed in spite of his supportive background. More a case of Nature rather than Nurture. The same is true of his victims to a lesser extent.
All three were victims of the time in which they lived. A documentary but a real page turner.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Book about an extraordinary case, 2 Mar 2013
This book is an fascinating read- a real life thriller and a genuine page-turner about a forgotten true crime. The period detail is amazing and the author's insights into the characters and their motivations (even Heath's) is exceptional. The new research into the case and the revealing information about Heath's schooling and his RAF experience shed a whole new light on what is both a gripping, but also very unsettling case. I have to agree with other reviewers here, that the description of the victims' lives is also very detailed and deeply moving. The final chapter, chronicling how this case affected both the victims' families- and Heath's is genuinely tragic. I can't think of many British True Crime books that have used the crime as a tool for dissecting an entire moment in history. An extraordinarily good book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly engrossing read, 17 Feb 2013
True crime as a genre is fascinating because it illustrates much about psychology, what motivates people to commit foul deeds like murder (usually sex and/or money, in this case mostly sex) and how they do it. It is also very revealing how the Press handled these matters back in 1946 (and still do) and in particular how they viewed women. Heath's first victim Margery Gardner has been mentioned in almost every account of the case until now, often through innuendo, as being effectively partly responsible for her own demise as she willingly took part in a sado-masochistic act which got out of hand. Through painstaking research Sean O'Connor has demonstrated very plausibly here that she almost certainly hadn't been with Heath in a similar situation before as has been so often stated; it was a different woman altogether named here for the first time since the files have been declassified. Even statements from certain professionals involved in this case now appear to have been wrongly based on assumption. And so mud sticks. However this comprehensive account of the case is very even-handed in that equal attention is accorded to the victims; usually the spotlight falls almost exclusively on the perpetrator because Joe Public wants to know the motivation and the gory details. The Heath murders, being of an extremely sadistic nature, were certainly sickening in detail but the facts are laid out straightforwardly and without titillation. In fact there is an astonishing amount of detail of all kinds in this book, almost none of it extraneous as it all helps to build a complete picture of the case, the people involved and the unique era in which it took place, that curious immediate post-war period where ex-servicemen like Heath were unsure what to do with their lives and how to resume any existing relationships or initiate new ones. The whole country, exhausted by six years of war, was in an utter state of flux where nothing seemed certain any more. This feeling of insecurity pervades the book and the writing also shows how extensively the war itself had shaped the lives of the protagonists by offering their biographies. Furthermore, although it may at first seem rather voyeuristic to, for example, list the contents of a victim's handbag in fact it helps us to understand what a desperate situation she found herself in on the night she met her untimely end. It is important and necessary that such detail is provided. In 1946, the public found Heath's crimes shocking but nevertheless large numbers were drawn to the police court and the Old Bailey just to catch sight of the man who had charmed so many women and killed two of them. Sean O'Connor has presented a well-balanced, sober account which is thought-provoking but never salacious. An afterthought - it is tempting to imagine how such crimes would be handled by today's media, with rolling 24-hour news coverage and the internet etc, it would all be so very different.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story..., 7 Sep 2013
By 
D. C. Carrad "augustabookman" (Augusta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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...but better than that, wonderfully written. One of the best true crime books I have ever read. Nice depiction of the post-World War II atmosphere and environment of England and South Africa. Highest recommendation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 6 Sep 2013
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Very interesting story that is well written and absorbing. Quite bizarre what the man managed to get away with and so often.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a devilish bounder!, 22 July 2013
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This true story of a ladykiller in the immediate after-war years is a truly absorbing tale. The research that the author has come up with pieces the story together of not only the killer, but his family, the police and indeed backgrounds of the victims as well.

The killer is portrayed in a sympathetic light as the handsome brute he undoubtably was, and the book makes a thoroughly good read of what could have been a rather grisly account, if not for the telling in subtle words by the very talented Mr O'Connor. I look forward to his next offering avidly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full marks for this book, 12 May 2013
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Extremely well written with so much interesting detail about 1940's London I felt transported back in time. A thoroughly great book and enjoyable read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different times different world, 6 May 2013
By 
Peter Wade (Colchester England) - See all my reviews
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Murders in the past had a dramatic outcome in that it was literally a matter of life and death. You learn a lot about how society used to run if you read factual accounts of old murders.
Neville Heath committed two murders in the 1940s and as a result was hanged for them. Hardly the mass serial killers that we hear about today but the details of the world that they were committed it I find fascinating. I particularly like the stories because they are talking about Britain during a time when society was much more murdered and people used to have a much more agreed idea of what was right and wrong.
Also there was not pornography on demand so most people would have had a very limited view of what happened outside their immediate experience.
Sean O'Connor has very successfully researched the backgrounds to both the crime and the period in which they were set. The war had changed people's views and certainly their experiences.
People were still respectful of characters who had been officers and acted like officers so Heath was able to get away with things because people could not believe or did not want to believe that a war hero officer would act dishonourably. He would wear a variety of uniforms and medals some of which he was entitled to. Because he had war service he knew the chat and the slang so therefore could easily convince those who me him that he was the real thing which he was because he had been commissioned three times and had been on ops and had baled out of an aircraft.
He had been to a grammar school and knew who to talk properly and act properly so he was able to fit in with ease.
He seemed to be able to easily create a new persona in a period of identity cards which was surprising that no one checked. People wanted to believe he was who he said as he was so convincing with his war stories and suavity. He definitely knew how to woo women and literally bend them to his will.
It was never really established why he became a sadist apart from his traumatic experiences and he claimed that he had blackouts and when the crime was described to him that he had no recollection. He di8dnt bother pleading insanity and just took it as if he were on an op that he wasn't going to come back from.
If you are interested in murders, the legal system and British social history this is the book for you. He briefly tells us what happened to the characters after the murders. He had a son who went on to have a normal life and may well still be alive today.
My criteria for a good book is how fast I read it and whether I would read it again. I read it in a couple of days and I would happily read it again.
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Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller
Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller by Sean O'Connor (Paperback - 27 Feb 2014)
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