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VINE VOICEon 13 July 2008
If Jack The Ripper can kill five women (although of course that is open to opinion) in the space of three months and become the most (in)famous serial killer in history, it may seem strange that a man can kill that many in a week to little historical fanfare.

The problem was that the man in question was quickly caught, relatively speaking, and the murders in question happened when Britain, and the world at large, were slightly more preoccupied with the Second World War.

This compelling book looks at the murders, the subsequent arrest and trial and also provides a very interesting viewpoint of life in general in the blackout times.

Given that the crimes were solved relatively quickly and without much controversy, the book does lean more towards general descriptions of the times and places in general but when they are as well written and atmospheric as they undoubtedly are, it adds up to an intriguing and interesting read.

It's also nice for once to see that the police can occasionally get things right.

If you're a true-crime fan, this is a must-read book.
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on 3 May 2014
It has always seemed strange to me that among Britain's most vile killers the name of Gordon Frederick Cummins is so little known. His crimes were such that he should certainly be up there amongst the best of them (or should that be 'the worst of them'? Whatever). In the course of one week during London's wartime blackout in 1942 he viciously murdered four women and mutilated their bodies to such an extent that he was justifiably compared to Jack the Ripper. And he certainly didn't hang about. Apart from the four that he murdered he also attacked two more who luckily survived. Had they not done so he would have surpassed the Ripper's known tally of five. And all in the course of one week! At least Jack the Ripper stretched his out to two and a half months to make things more interesting.

Simon Read gives a fairly detailed and readable account of Cummins' crimes although his book does contain a great deal of padding. This is probably because the whole of Cummins' 'reign of terror' only lasted a few days. His escapades do not really justify a whole book as there was no prolonged police investigation. His first murder took place on the 9th of February and he was arrested on the 16th after committing a fatal error. Not a bad time frame in which to commit four murders and attempt two more.

The book's publicity blurb states that the author is a British journalist currently living in the USA. As such he seems to have gone completely native as his book is written in American English with all its associated spellings and idioms. (As an ex-police officer I can assure him that CID officers, when identifying themselves, do not 'flash their badges'. They show their warrant cards.)

Another reviewer has pointed out the deplorable lack of photographs in the book and I entirely agree. Pictures of Cummins and his victims, as well as the police officers in the case, do exist. Not to include them is an inexcusable lapse. I can only assume that the publishers were trying to save money.

Although this book will not go down in the annals as a classic of crime literature it's not really a bad read and worth adding to anyone's True Crime library.
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on 28 February 2009
These murders happened 2 weeks after I was born in 1942,and this was how my interest was first raised. I onced studied the life,career,and case histories of Sir Bernard Spilsbury so another point of interest.
I dont recall ever hearing of these 'blackout murders' before,but because the murders were all committed in a short space of time and the murderer was apprehended very quickly perhaps that is the reason. Also,maybe it was hushed up to allay mass panic in an already war torn London.
Gruesome details of the murders and an altogether realistic picture of London in the blackout does cast your mind back to the time of 'Jack the Ripper' and similar circumstances.
The history of the fingerprint department was illuminating,describing the long,arduous,painstaking work which was undertaken,sometimes with almost miraculous results.
I sometimes felt the narrative failed to flow smoothly as the reader is jerked from one scenario to the next
I would only recommend this book to lovers of murder profiles if they are interested in the science of the crime. It may prove hard going if you want a 'murder mystery'.
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on 28 July 2012
Bought this book via Amazon...thank you, World of Books Ltd.

As a connoisseur of murder crimes, one always starts reading these kinds of 'within living memory' books with a sense of disappointment hovering in the the background, Disappointment that it's going to be another book recounting the dry details of the crime(s) and a bit of 'here's what I think' tossed in for good measure.
Well no. Not this time. The author has gone in for full autopsy disclosures, memories from police in the case(s), how the investigations progressed, Home Office & Police records and also contextual social history of the detectives involved and difficulty of the wartime period of the crimes which made the capture of the 'scattergun' criminal an outstanding piece of co-operation between the various police departments, detection, statement collection, fingerprint, medical forensics etc.
There were no pictures of the principals included in the only disappointment.
I read the book within one day and it left me champing at the bit for more.....I can't give higher praise than that.
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on 9 September 2013
This is the first proper account of the murders of Gordon Cummins, the so called Blackout Ripper of 1942. It reads well and seems to be fairly well researched. The author and publisher should be congratulated on bringing this account to the public. The narrative covers the police investigation, and also the murders from viewpoint of both killer and victims.

However, it could have been better. There's no introduction, conclusion, index, footnotes, proper bibliography or any pictures (surely one of the killer should be included as an absolute minimum). There's a number of Americansims, eg Train station, theater etc., and this in a book about murders in London in 1942! There is little background information about murderer or victims, though plenty about Greeno, Cherill and Spilsbury, possibly because that's easier to come by. Nor is there anything about the media or the possibility that Cummins might have killed two women in the autumn of 1941, though I feel this is improbable. The appeal against the verdict is hinted at but not explored (papers at Lambeth Palace Library). The author believes that clergy were not executed pre 1827 - tell that to Rev. Dodd, executed for forgery in 1777 or to a Jacobite parson in 1746. There's also quite a bit of unnnecessry information about Henry Fielding and Scotland Yard's origins.Nor do we learn about who the hangman was. I also wasn't sure that all available evidence at Kew, LMA etc had been used.

So, a good attempt, and certainly very readable, into a lesser known serial killer, but one that could well have been improved. 3 and and half stars.
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on 21 June 2015
Well I hadn't heard about this case, and it is an unexpected story. Why did a young man butcher several female sex workers in the space of a single week, given that World War Two was in full tilt at the time? His motives are given as theft of the small amounts of cash carried by his victims and being a generally bad egg. I tried to follow the book up on Wiki,which has his photo but nothing much to add. The author does mangle the English language a little, chucking in the odd Americanism and rogue spelling, but to his credit he does pad out the story with history and explanations of policing in the metropolis. I got this book on Saturday morning and finished reading it by Sunday teatime, so I suppose it held my interest!
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on 26 July 2010
A good intro and a very good start to the book. I found it a bit odd having the book punctuated in between the story about how the Police began and other historical events, although reading about the fingerprint expert Frederick Cherrill and how he came to be was I thought paramount to the story. All in all very well written and my only complaint is the Americanism of some words, although the author is British. Very annoying but it didnt stop my reading of the book
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on 17 May 2011
Having read many Jack The Ripper books over the years ,i knew little about the blackout ripper,in fact i know of no other book on the subject.This book is very illuminating ,not only on the murders which happened over a 5 day period ,but also on police forensics of the day.If Gordon Frederick Cummins had not been caught so quickly he would have equalled jack the ripper with the horror of his deeds,and to think he looks such a normal chap on his photo,frightening!
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