Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City
Death in the Air is a factual retelling of the Great Smog of 1952 in London as well as of John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women, some of them during that time. The Great Smog descended on London for five days, killing around 12,000 people. The effects of that fog are still felt today, but it caused legislation to be passed in the attempt to clean up the air and keep it from happening again. John Reginald Christie, known as the “Beast of Rillington Place,” was an unassuming man who murdered women and then kept them inside his walls as well as his floorboards and garden. Because of his unknown involvement in a double murder that happened in his apartment building, which a man was executed for, laws concerning the death penalty were changed at the time of his execution. The fog and the man, both were killers that changed a country.
I went into this book thinking it was historical fiction, but it is very factual, with accounts from people who lived through it. There are thirty pages of notes at the end, detailing where the author got all of her information for each chapter. Normally, I tend to steer away from nonfiction, but I was pleasantly surprised. I learned a ton about London in that time period. Both 1952 and 1953 were incredibly rough years for that city, with disaster upon disaster as well as the death of a king. Kate Winkler Dawson does a fantastic job of weaving all of the facts together to make a readable story that entertains even someone like me. She doesn’t really fictionalize anything in this book, but manages to write in a way that the facts aren’t overwhelming or boring. I would recommend this book if you like true crime, the environment, anything about London or even if you just want to learn about something new.
Kate Winkler Dawson