Death in the Air

Death in the Air

The True Story of A Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of A City

Book - 2017
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In winter 1952, London automobiles and thousands of coal-burning hearths belched particulate matter into the air. But the smog that descended on December 5th of 1952 was different; it was a type that held the city hostage for five long days. Mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and 12,000 people died. That same month, there was another killer at large in London: John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women. In a braided narrative that draws on extensive interviews, never-before-published material, and archival research, Dawson captivatingly recounts the intersecting stories of the these two killers and their longstanding impact on modern history
Publisher: New York, NY : Hachette Books, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316506861
Characteristics: viii, 341 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm


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Mar 07, 2018

This remarkably boring book is mostly about a particularly bad London fog in 1952. The author somehow thought it would be a good idea to try to weave in the story of the English serial killer Christie, who was operating in London during this time, though for a period of YEARS, not just during the fog. The book might be of interest to a meteorologist, or a scientist, but her endless descriptions of dirt and air pollution are unlikely to be interesting to the general reader. This is probably the reason that the story of the serial killer is clumsily interjected and in fact probably that was the only reason this book got published. But HIS story is not really very interesting either, especially because the author seems obsessed with describing all of his medical problems. By the time I was about a fifth of the way through this book, and had read the endless descriptions of dirt, greasy fog, people coughing up yellow phlegm and collapsing on the street, and Christie's symptoms of colitis, I felt sick and depressed and stopped reading.

Dec 03, 2017

I found it an interesting read. The WSJ review points out the previous reviewers comments, however I think it's a worthwhile read if one can navigate through those particular shortcomings. The historical value is good, illuminating how slow Britain was to respond to the imminent hazards of air quality & health hazards. Due to the use of cheap coal 'nutty slack' in such a densely packed city over decades of use met up with changing air currents was the perfect storm, thousands died of respiratory ailments. 1953 - was this the early warning how environmental pollution affects life?

I like the manner in which she ties in the murders, how the death penalty that was so quickly determined & often on innocent people. The death penalty was abolished in 1965 - by hanging no less - is an interesting point. Looking at prison sentencing in the UK compared to the US has fascinated me, then I realised the colossal difference in size & population.

Nov 25, 2017

The writer seems to want to make this a poetic book. Consequently, it seemed a little redundant and slow and at points, perplexing. Not as interesting or engaging as I thought it would be.


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