The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811

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9780445405622: The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811

In this riveting true crime account, acclaimed author P. D. James, the "Queen of the English mystery novel" (Newsweek) joins forces with historian T. A. Critchley to re-create the Radcliffe Highway murders, a series of vicious crimes committed in 1811 ... The scene is the London Docks near Wapping Old Stairs, a sinister neighborhood where pirates were often hanged. The first victims were two hardworking shopkeepers, along with their baby and shop boy. Twelve days later and only a few blocks away, an equally blameless pub owner was found together with his wife and servant, victims of equal cruelty and apparent absence of motive. The serial killings provoked nationwide notoriety and panic. With the atmosphere and pacing of her best novels, James reveals the rudimentary police system of Regency London coping with a major murder investigation -- and crimes that rank up there with Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, and Son of Sam as the very symbol of murderous and unthinking brutality.

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About the Author:

P. D. James was a bestselling and internationally acclaimed crime writer. She was the creator of Adam Dalgliesh and Cordelia Gray, and their long and successful series of mysteries. Her works include Cover Her Face (1962), An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972), Innocent Blood (1980), Children of Men (1992), and the Jane Austen-inspired Death Comes to Pemberley (2011). James was born in Oxford in 1920. She won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors, and stood down from this role in 2013.

From Publishers Weekly:

In 1811, London's East End was the scene of a series of murders so brutal and irrational that they caused panic throughout the city, which lacked a central police force. This engrossing account, marking the American nonfiction debut of British mystery novelist James, details the seven vicious ("brains battered out and throats butchered"), apparently motiveless slayings (which occurred first in a linen shop, then, days later, in a nearby pub); the confused efforts of local "police" groups; and the cases' suspiciously abrupt closing after suspect John Williams, a seaman and lodger at the Pear Tree public house, committed suicide in jail, thereby sealing his "guilt" and prompting a bizarre parade of his corpse (together with a murderous maul) throughout the city. James and police historian Critchley use documents and contemporary news accounts splendidly, pointing up the incompetence of the investigators and offering an intriguing view of what really happened. First published in Britain in 1971, this will certainly please James's following here.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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