For decades the psychological assessment and treatment of offenders has run on invalid and untested programmes. Robert A. Forde exposes the current ineffectiveness of forensic psychology that has for too long been maintained by individual and commercial vested interests, resulting in dangerous prisoners being released on parole, and low risk prisoners being denied it, wasting enormous amounts of public money. Challenging entrenched ideas about the field of psychology as a whole, and how it should be practised in the criminal justice system, the author shows how effective changes can be made for more just decisions, and the better rehabilitation of offenders into society, while significantly reducing the cost to the taxpayer.
This is a fearless account calling for a return to scientific evidence in the troubled field of forensic psychology.
Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. His death compelled her to enter the legal profession to search for answers. As a junior criminal and family law barrister she finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which barristers sigh with relief at the retirement of a racist judge: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope.’
In her debut book In Black and White, Alexandra beautifully re-creates the tense court room scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life.
Alexandra speaks with raw honesty about her experience as a mixed-race woman from a non-traditional background in a profession that is sorely lacking in diverse representation. A justice system in which a disproportionately large number of black and mixed-race people are charged, convicted and sent to prison.
She shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin or someone you suspect is guilty, and the heart-breaking youth justice cases she has worked on. We see what it’s like for the teenagers coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers.
Her account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful. Alexandra’s story is unique in a profession still dominated by a section of society with little first-hand experience of the devastating impact of violent crime.
It is a little known fact that one immigrant Italian family ran London’s thriving vice trade unchecked from the mid-1930s for some twenty years.
The five Messina brothers imported prostitutes from the Continent on an industrial scale, acquiring the women British citizenship by phoney marriages. Demanding 80% of earnings, the Messina became fabulously wealthy, purchasing expensive properties, cars and influence.
As this revealing and absorbing account describes, the brothers ruled with a ruthless combination of charm, blackmail and all too credible threats of disfigurement and death.
It took a sensational Sunday newspaper exposé to get the authorities to act. A series of dramatic arrests and trials followed and one by one the brothers were imprisoned and deported for crimes including immoral earnings, attempted bribery and firearms offences.
Such was their fortune that numerous potential beneficiaries came forward, most recently in 2012.
The author, a much published former Metropolitan police officer, has researched the remarkable criminal careers of the five Messina’s and the result is a riveting and shocking read.
I have so many Pen & Sword books to review (because they keep releasing so many that I want to read!) that I’m doing multiple reviews in a single post. Today I’m writing reviews for the true crime books I’ve read recently.
I had not heard of this case before, and I was intrigued because I thought I’d heard of most of the major serial killers in Britain in the last fifty years, There has been a lot of speculation and sensationalisation about Kieran Kelly, much of it encouraged by former Police Officer Geoff Platt, alleging that Kieran Kelly had murdered 31 people, 12 on the tube. He wrote a couple of books about it and apparently does cruises. He also says the crimes were covered up by the government for some reason.
Robert Mulhern does an excellent job of chasing down as much of the truth as possible after so long. The only certainty is that Kelly killed his cell-mate William Boyd in August 1983 and Hector Fisher on Clapham Common in 1975. He may have also killed five or six other homeless people, but the police weren’t able to prove anything and his own solicitor called Kelly a ‘fantasist’.
As much an investigation in to the life of Kieran Kelly and an investigation into the claims that were making headlines and their author. Mulhern travels from London to Ireland and back, trying to check the details and speaking to people who knew Kelly as Ken.
Mulhern spoke to a lot of other people, including more police officers involved with the Kelly case in 1983/1984, and Geoff Platt himself. Among those Mulhern spoke to was ‘Officer A’, who had access to a lot of the paperwork and the new Inquiry, and retired D.I., Ian Brown, a detective on the Boyd case, who objects to being called a liar.
The evidence suggests Kelly murdered five or six homeless people during drunken rages, but had nothing to do with any deaths on the Underground. It also suggests that Platt is making hay from his minor part in an unusual case of murder in a police station. There’s some really good investigative work in this book, with multiple interviews from the people who were there.
Patrick Mackay is a bit of a sad sack, who took out his own insecurities first on his mother and sisters, and then on local kids, before moving on to murder people who tried to help him. Usually elderly women. I’ve heard about him before so I couldn’t understand the title of this book. And then I got to the last chapter.
Patrick Mackay’s crimes were sensational at the time – priests found hacked to death in their baths will cause a fuss – but over the years he’s been forgotten. Murderers with higher body counts have pushed him into the background. He’s changed his name and now lives in an open prison. Brady or Sutcliffe would never have been allowed to do that.
The author sets out a biography of Patrick Mackay and his potential involvement in other unsolved crimes that match the crimes he was convicted for. If you’ve never heard of this particular serial killer, this book is a good place to start.
This book covers thirteen murders from 1857 – 1957, some quite well-known and some less so. The author gives the details then discusses the possible killers, as far as he is able to after so long. Each chapter is detailed and the photographs and images provided are helpful. It’s a fairly easy to read book that you can pick up to read a chapter or two then go back to later.
A good place to start if you’re interested in unsolved murders.
Well, this one was different. Since the network of canals around England were first dug in the early years of the Industrial Revolution to the modern use of them for pleasure, crime has taken place. Murder, mugging, coal theft.
I found this book sludgy going at times, although at others it was really fascinating.
On April 26, 1999, BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered outside her home in London. Barry George was convicted and imprisoned for the murder but was later acquitted after an appeal and retrial. Stand Against Injustice is the powerful memoir of the sister of Barry George. For the first time, Michelle Diskin Bates tells her story, the human side and truth behind one of recent history’s most high profile and damaging miscarriages of justice whose life is inextricably interwoven in the drama, the trauma, the conspiracy and the fight for justice. A self-confessed ‘ordinary housewife’, Michelle’s voice weaves the personal everyday struggles that bring depth, color, and passion into what is an extraordinary account. A troubled childhood weighted with overbearing responsibility, fear and insecurity, depression, and the challenges of marriage and adult relationships, Michelle’s life has never been easy. However, the one constant in her life – her faith in God – underpins and provides the foundation upon which she now stands – against injustice.
Thanks to Rosie Crofts, who emails me with lists of books every now and then. I have quite a pile of books to get through so I’m doing themed review posts. In this case, Women’s History. The next one will be ‘True Crime’.
When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, ‘There are no female serial killers’.
Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsebet Bathory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.
Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject, and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist cliches that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.
I haven’t been feeling great so my reviews are a bit behind. I have a stack of books next to my laptop that I need to tell you all about. I’ve got three Pen & Sword books for you and an indie about comic book history.
England entered the nineteenth century having lost the American states and was at war with France. The slave trade had been halted and the country was in torment, with industrialisation throwing men and women out of work as poverty haunted their lives. As the merchants of England and America saw their businesses stagnate and profits plummet, everyone blamed the government and its policies. Those in charge were alarmed and businessmen, who were believed to be exploiting the poor, were murdered. Assassination indeed stalked the streets.
The man at the centre of the storm was Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. From the higher reaches of society to the beggar looking for bread, many wanted him dead, due to policies brought about by his inflexible religious convictions and his belief that he was appointed by God. In May 1812 he entered the Lobby of the Houses of Parliament when a man stepped forward and fired a pistol at him. The lead ball entered into his heart. Within minutes he was dead.
Using freshly-discovered archive material, this book explores the assassin’s thoughts and actions through his own writings. Using his background in psychology, the author explores the question of the killer’s sanity and the fairness of his subsequent trial.
Within its pages the reader will find an account of the murder of Spencer Perceval and a well-developed portrait of his assassin.