murder book“It is often said that perfect murders are those of which the perpetrators remain undetected – or at least unconvicted.”

Murder is entertaining. I’ve said it again and again and again. Some people would think I enjoyed it a little too much, or maybe took too much of a practical interest in the activity. Those people need to provide evidence to back up such defamatory statements. And I’ve been very careful so far. As careful, in fact, as the murderers in this book.

A murder mystery is at its most satisfying when we get the answer. Readers of mysteries actually don’t like mystery, they like that there are solutions and they like it when everything comes together. Fiction, however, is much neater than real life because real life doesn’t have to make sense. In this book we discover the stories of seven murders from the last one hundred or so years that have still not been solved, and indeed probably now never will be. Taylor and Knight have done their research to find out what they know, give us all the evidence and drawn their own conclusions, inviting us to do the same.

There’s the strange death of William Saunders, found face down in a muddy pond; the disappearance of Georgina Moore, in which a neighbour is implicated but never convicted; the sad story of the Luard family, each of whom died in tragic circumstances; the murder of Weldon Atherstone, unrecognised by his own son after death; the infamous Brighton Trunk Murder where Tony Mancini was accused of killing his girlfriend; the spooky demise of Charles Walton whose death is believed to have been linked to witchcraft and the sight of a ghostly black dog; and the brutal killing of Helen Davidson, found in a forest with her face caved in and her dog faithfully watching over her. In every case, the murderer got away with it.

Although it’s a good premise and the authors have absolutely done astounding levels of research to bring us every possible detail about the deaths and subsequent trials, it is because of that that it seems a little dry in places. The two longest stories – those of Moore and Luard – tend to drag a little, repeating themselves and ensuring that everything is recorded as accurately as possible. This is fascinating, and allows us, as I said, to make our own decisions on what really happened. At the end of the each story – some written by Taylor, some by Knight – the writer shares his own theories, making use of evidence that came up years later and studying the known facts at the time to work out what really happened.

My personal favourite is the very short and snappy, but utterly captivating, witchcraft-centric murder of Charles Walton, although special note has to go to the Tony Mancini story which has a twist worthy of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. It’s an eye-opening read and a brief glimpse into the many, many murders that remain unsolved, as well as a stark reminder that unconvicted murderers walk among us – you never know who it could be…