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on 2 April 2013
I concur with the other reviewers – this book is an excellent read. Heaths unspeakable crimes were the sensation of their day but have faded into obscurity. This meticulously researched and skilfully written book tells the story from Heaths childhood early life and career, setting the scene against the backdrop of WW2. A nice twist is that the book gives equal focus on Heaths’ family and even more so, on the victims and how their lives became entangled with his. Whilst two of his women paid dearly for their association with him, there are others whose lives he touched but remained unscathed. Historical information is very interesting and really sets the scene. The author does not dwell on Heath’s mental capacity or his motivation, giving the reader the space to make up their own minds, indeed, Heath himself could not explain his horrendous crimes and certainly did not seek to justify them, even when facing his own execution. A captivating read.
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on 6 May 2014
I was not familiar with the Heath story but found myself gripped from the very first page. The author has seemingly gone to great lengths to gather information and facts and this clearly comes through in the book. Although his crimes were horrific you are left with the impression that due to various shortcomings some of which were down to Heath himself he was not treated terribly fairly. There is no doubt that he should pay for the most brutal of killings but you are left with a certain sympathy for him nonetheless. I liked very much the follow up stories on those left behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. A great read especially as it is a true story. I look forward to more from the author.
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on 3 August 2017
insight into a brutal murderer
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Heath was an enigma.He cannot be explained by the school that looks for the roots of criminal behaviour in deprivation and an unloving background.

In this interesting account O'Connor makes clear that Heath was born into a loving middle-class family, educated at a public school and gave no indication as a teenager that he was capable of two terrible crimes-but then this is not all that unique.

Conceited and charming he took advantage of a society that was easilt taken in by a nice accent and good looks.

Obsessed with flying he joined the RAF but was sacked for stealing. He then joined the South African Air Force but was again kicked out. Umbelievably, he was able to rejoin the RAF (they were desparate for flyers) and he took part in Bomber Command's war time exploits. He displayed outstanding bravery on one sortie when he rescued his navigator in their burning aircraft.For this he should have been awarded a medal.

This was the same man that sadistically murdered two women after the war.
He never tried to deny the murders claiming that he had blacked out on each occasion.

Sensibly, the author does not try to explain why Heath committed these gruesome murders. No one will ever know. Those who blame his war time experiences are on very thin ground. I know many ex service personnel who went through every form of hell in battle but lived perfectly normal lives after the fighting ended.
We should also remember that between 1940 and 1945 thousands of 'normal' Germans slaughtered in camps and on the battlefield millions of innocent civilians.

What this book demonstrates is that despite advances in psychiatry we are still a very long way from being able to fathom the workings of the mind.
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on 18 March 2013
This is very well written in an unsensational way. I already had a copy of Notable British Trials dealing with this case but they, of course, do not give an idea of the psyche of the murderer. I was so wrapped up in this book I felt I was at the cinema and it was being played out before me. What a terrible tragedy, apart from the dreadful crimes, the whole thing was ruining many peoples lives for ever. Sean O'Connor has written a brilliant, in depth, analysis of this case without resorting to cheap sensationalism which so often happens. Too complex a character for any but the trained psychoanalyst to be able to start to fathom. Only one gripe, I would have like an index that would have been the icing on the cake.
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on 19 July 2013
I just got this from amazon uk. The writer really did a good job on finding out information on Neville Heath. I love this book so much I am going to get Neville Heath, Rotten to the core. I am fascinated with Neville Heath
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on 10 March 2013
This book gives a wonderful picture of wartime England and the emotional as well as the material impact it had on the people . I had some small knowledge of Neville Heath, mostly glamourized, but this book puts me right in a truthful yet compassionate way. without any sense of melodrama the Heath appears to have been doomed in spite of his supportive background. More a case of Nature rather than Nurture. The same is true of his victims to a lesser extent.
All three were victims of the time in which they lived. A documentary but a real page turner.
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on 2 March 2013
This book is an fascinating read- a real life thriller and a genuine page-turner about a forgotten true crime. The period detail is amazing and the author's insights into the characters and their motivations (even Heath's) is exceptional. The new research into the case and the revealing information about Heath's schooling and his RAF experience shed a whole new light on what is both a gripping, but also very unsettling case. I have to agree with other reviewers here, that the description of the victims' lives is also very detailed and deeply moving. The final chapter, chronicling how this case affected both the victims' families- and Heath's is genuinely tragic. I can't think of many British True Crime books that have used the crime as a tool for dissecting an entire moment in history. An extraordinarily good book.
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VINE VOICEon 6 May 2013
Murders in the past had a dramatic outcome in that it was literally a matter of life and death. You learn a lot about how society used to run if you read factual accounts of old murders.
Neville Heath committed two murders in the 1940s and as a result was hanged for them. Hardly the mass serial killers that we hear about today but the details of the world that they were committed it I find fascinating. I particularly like the stories because they are talking about Britain during a time when society was much more murdered and people used to have a much more agreed idea of what was right and wrong.
Also there was not pornography on demand so most people would have had a very limited view of what happened outside their immediate experience.
Sean O'Connor has very successfully researched the backgrounds to both the crime and the period in which they were set. The war had changed people's views and certainly their experiences.
People were still respectful of characters who had been officers and acted like officers so Heath was able to get away with things because people could not believe or did not want to believe that a war hero officer would act dishonourably. He would wear a variety of uniforms and medals some of which he was entitled to. Because he had war service he knew the chat and the slang so therefore could easily convince those who me him that he was the real thing which he was because he had been commissioned three times and had been on ops and had baled out of an aircraft.
He had been to a grammar school and knew who to talk properly and act properly so he was able to fit in with ease.
He seemed to be able to easily create a new persona in a period of identity cards which was surprising that no one checked. People wanted to believe he was who he said as he was so convincing with his war stories and suavity. He definitely knew how to woo women and literally bend them to his will.
It was never really established why he became a sadist apart from his traumatic experiences and he claimed that he had blackouts and when the crime was described to him that he had no recollection. He di8dnt bother pleading insanity and just took it as if he were on an op that he wasn't going to come back from.
If you are interested in murders, the legal system and British social history this is the book for you. He briefly tells us what happened to the characters after the murders. He had a son who went on to have a normal life and may well still be alive today.
My criteria for a good book is how fast I read it and whether I would read it again. I read it in a couple of days and I would happily read it again.
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on 29 September 2013
This is true crime writing of the highest calibre. Deeply researched and crisply written, Handsome Brute grips from the first page.

Neville Heath murdered two women in England in 1946, the second while on the run from the police for the first crime. O'Connor's outstanding achievement is to transport the reader back to the time of the crimes, so richly does he capture the period and the social and moral changes wrought by the Second World War.

He researches the background of the killer, his victims and the senior detective in charge of the case to the extent that the reader feels as if he has known the people in person. You feel as if you are inhabiting the life Heath led: London's bars, drinking clubs and hotels. Equally well, the author places you in Bournemouth as it is beginning the transformation from wartime camp back to popular tourist destination.

He restores their humanity to the victims and the killer by carefully recreating their lives, drawing on original records and looking beyond the exaggeration and inaccuracies of many of the contemporary newspapers' and books' accounts of the case.

He acutely questions why Heath became a killer and how his wartime experiences and return to civilian life may have affected him. He demonstrates the inadequacy of the trial in addressing these questions.

Only start reading this thought-provoking, moving book if you know you can set everything else aside until you have finished it.
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