SOCIAL SCIENCES

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City

Hachette. Oct. 2017. 320p. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9780316506861. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316506854. CRIME
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OrangeReviewStarTwo events occurred in London in the early 1950s that would change the law. The first became known as the Great Smog: a fog that enveloped London in 1952 with poisonous air that seeped into every nook and cranny of the city. Even though London was renowned for its "pea-soup" fog, the Great Smog was extreme, caused by the smoke of over a million coal fires combining with thick fog that lingered for days. Killing over 12,000 people, the tragedy led to clean air legislation. The second event eventually led to the abolition of capital punishment. Dawson (journalism, Univ. of Texas at Austin) tells of how in 1950, Timothy Evans was convicted and hanged for the murder of his wife and daughter. In 1953, John Reginald Christie, Evans's neighbor and a serial murderer who took the lives of at least seven women, was finally apprehended. Christie's conviction cast doubt on Evans's execution, as many wondered if Christie was the actual killer. This doubt eventually contributed to legislation suspending the death penalty in 1965.
VERDICT Tendrils of sickening fog creep everywhere in this book, and terror lurks in the shadows. Dawson skillfully weaves these two events into a substantial narrative that will appeal to all types of readers.

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