This is a valuable book by Dick Kirby, whose writing gets better and better with each new addition to his impressive list of titles. It relies on a nice mixture of research, detective experience and personal recollections from people involved whose accounts would otherwise be lost to history without the author's assiduous search for testimony from those who played a part in the events.
The book outlines a whole series of gang-related crime, including the activities of the Maltese Syndicate, Jack Spot and Billy Hill, the Pen Club murder and the Kray brothers, but is perhaps most valuable in recording the Richardson brothers' activities. It reclaims perspective on the tawdry, distasteful and disgraceful personalities of the villains who have sometimes been elevated to a distorted folk-hero status, supported by setcions of the media and self-serving biographies, and it reminds us of the damage they wrought on communities and the integrity of the legal system of this country.
Running though the book are the themes of violent, vain and manipulative bullies, often with personality disorders and mental health problems, who nearly succeeded in corrupting the whole system of law enforcement in this country. They were eventually brought to justice by the courageous, dedicated, determined and shrewd detective work by heroes like Bert Wickstead, Gerald McArthur and 'Nipper' Read despite routine intimidation of witnesses and jurors, police corruption, devious lawyers and the sometimes frustrating processes of the courts.
These events were largely before the era of drug trafficking by organised crime in Britain. The book acts as a timely reminder of the degree of determination and dedication that is necessary to combat the ruthless criminals who will always try and put themselves above the law. The legal system and the police service have changed dramatically since the events of this book; time will tell whether we are any better at dealing with organised crime and the ambitions of today's gang leaders.