I’ve gotten somewhat behind with my reviewing after taking a week out in incredibly sunny Crete, so please forgive my brain dump whilst I catch up. First up for my holiday reads was Underworld London, combining my fascinations with true crime and history into one entertaining and informative book in the company of Catharine Arnold, someone who I’ve already read much of and enjoyed.
Underworld London takes a look at crime and punishment throughout London’s history, from the medieval executions for pretty much anything (with over 170 capital offences recorded at one point, you could be hung or burnt at the stake for such varied crimes as stealing a loaf of bread to believing in God wrong to plotting against the King) through to the abolition of the death penalty, as well as peering into and examining the state of our prisons through the ages (which were often where the most cruel and barbarous crimes were committed against the inmates by those in charge), Underworld London also documents the changing nature of the crimes committed and those committing them through the ages, as well as how the changing city itself leant itself to those changes. From the rookeries and slums into which criminals often sprang and could easily disappear, the deserted heaths upon which the highwaymen plied their trade and the the teeming streets which gave opportunities to pickpockets, pimps, prostitutes, dealers and many more, much of London’s crime has been shaped by the city itself. Of course, human nature also plays a significant part – with desperation, need, greed, passion, political inconvenience, circumstance and sometimes just plain being a wrong ‘un all never going out of fashion – and a parade of fascinating people and stories (even if they’re just their highlights) all grace the pages, many of whom will prompt you – if you’re anything like me – to jot them down for further reading.
Interesting enough to keep me turning the pages while also light enough to not depress me, Underworld London also had me stopping my boyfriend every few minutes to tell him a new interesting or shocking fact. So if you too would like to annoy your loved ones with things they find nowhere near as fascinating as you do, you should probably give this a go.