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on 14 January 2016
The subtitle of this book is "Extraordinary But True Stories." Alas, when it comes to choosing between extraordinary and true, Mr. Quinn invariably goes with "extraordinary." He seems happy to pass on legends and tall tales without checking the facts.

In some cases, this involves some minor and forgivable simplification. For example, he presents it as proven fact that the Crossbones Graveyard was a burying ground specifically for prostitutes, but some sources suggest it was a pauper's graveyard or a plague pit. I wish he had given a more nuanced view, but in a book meant to offer quick glimpses into a variety of subjects, it's a forgivable omission.

In other cases, he makes a minor error that doesn't affect his overall point. He claims that the feather quill held by the statue of John Stow in St. Andrew Undershaft is changed every year by the Lord Mayor of London in a special ceremony. In fact, it's changed every three years -- but the fact that the Lord Mayor changes it all is certainly a fascinating bit of London trivia.

Unfortunately, in some cases, his information is wrong enough to invalidate his main point. For example, Quinn claims that "even today a freeman is entitled to herd sheep over London Bridge, he may walk about the city with a drawn sword, can insist on being married in St Paul's Cathedral, is permitted to be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest and best of all if he is sentenced to hang the execution can only be carried out using a silken rope!" In fact, the city of London's own publications on the subject make it clear that, if these rights ever actually existed, they certainly don't apply today.

Everybody makes mistakes, and no one of these errors would be a big deal -- but I've spotted enough of them that I don't feel I can trust anything he says without further verification, which takes some of the pleasure out of the book.

If you approach this book as a evening in a pub with a charming but slightly unreliable friend, you'll leave with many entertaining tales. Just don't rely too heavily on their being true.
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on 29 May 2017
It's ok us all I can say. Gave a copy to a friend who is a London history buff and he did question the authenticity of some of the stories, which did sound a bit glib. This, however, just our personal opinions. Others may enjoy it as a quick, light hearted read.
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on 27 April 2017
I think I have read most of this before but under a different title possibly. If I hadn't it would have scored more. It could do with fleshing out as some of the chapters are very brief.
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on 3 July 2017
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on 21 April 2017
Most interesting and answered a question I have wondered about for some time.
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With few of the tales running to more than a couple of pages, this is a perfect book for dipping into for a few minutes at a time. What lets it down is the author's tendency to sneer, most especially at royalty, the rich, and anyone he feels is responsible for having an old building demolished (and nothing that has gone up in place of something else is ever any good). This can be best illustrated by his comment on Waterloo Bridge, "destroyed by a stupid decision". Ummm, no, actually. A quick google shows that the bridge was demolished after decades of increasing problems with damaged bridge pier foundations. So perhaps building a brand new bridge wasn't such a stupid idea after all? Anyway, the sneering aside, despite the lack of pictures or maps, the author's journalistic style makes for easy reading, and there's certainly plenty of tales & plenty of variety amongst them. An interesting & enjoyable read, worthy of 4*.
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on 5 May 2015
funny, informative and the author not being totally unbiased, particularly in regard to planners and developers, this book was a joy for me, so much so that during my family visits to London many places are on my 'must visit' list. Dip into it, or as I did, spend ages page turning, whichever, enjoy the trip round quirky London.
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on 2 April 2017
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on 30 December 2008
London's Strangest Tales

London's Strangest Tales is a fantastic book full of quirky little facts about London. Being a Londoner myself, I found it endearing and loved hearing things about places I am familiar with and go to often. I definitely think I will plan a day going around London to see if I can spot the hidden landmarks and pieces of our history that still survive today.
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on 16 July 2014
This is a very nice collection of tales full of humour and fun historical information. If you have ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes in history, this would be a perfect book to choose.

This book is not extremely lengthy, but moves progressively forward to the future from the distant past, recounting some of the most hair-raising and comical events in local history.

What I liked about this book more than anything, was the voice of the narrator. Rather than a stiff, formal approach, the book felt very conversational and easy going. There were multiple parts that made me laugh.

If you like learning about history and want to have a few smiles along the way, this is an excellent choice.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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