Top critical review
Interesting story let down by the writing
on 24 July 2014
I love true, historical crime books, and this is a story I hadn't come across before so was looking forward to reading. It isn't the most page-turning of mysteries, but it certainly seemed worthwhile seeing through to the end - until I became so annoyed by the way it was written that I gave up.
This book suffers from the modern non-fiction curse of fabricated observations on almost every page, in almost every scene (or at least I can vouch for that up to the point where I left off!). It's becoming depressingly common and is done presumably in order to make it a more interesting read. But for many decades non-fiction has managed perfectly well on the well-written presentation of a factual story, so no one is going to persuade me that true stories can't be interesting without being tarted up with second rate fictional touches.
Why write that the detective scraped away the clay "with trembling fingers", when firstly it's pure invention, and secondly it probably isn't true of an experienced police officer? Was the landlord of the pub really "rubbing his hands with glee" after the a dead child's corpse was taken to his pub, just because it meant it might attract more customers? I doubt it, and the book is full of needless little invented touches like this.
If that sort of "wannabe novelist" style doesn't bother you then you'll probably enjoy the book, because it's clearly well researched. But if you're a purist like me and value your blood pressure, stay well clear!