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A detailed analysis of an old crime
on 15 May 2011
This must have been one of PD James first excursions into detective writing having originally been written in 1971. She and her co-writer try to reconstruct and analyze the evidence from a couple of savage multiple murders that happened in 1811 in London's East End within one month of each other. The book starts with an atmospheric and lively description of life in the area and then proceeds into a very detailed account of the amateurish attempts by local magistrates to solve the crime. By today's standards the lack of detective expertise is shocking, but with no police force trained to gather evidence it's not surprising. The narrative is realistic in that the stalled investigation meant that the powers that be were going round in circles trying to find clues and culprits, but I found myself getting a little bored after 200 or so pages as the story meandered in detail. The ending of the book is concerned with the author's attempts to solve the crime but with little success.
The strength of the book is as an historical record of how primitive were the processes of detecting crime and the paucity of protection for people accused of a crime.