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

eBook - 2017
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Grand Central Pub
A real-life thriller in the vein of The Devil in the White City, Kate Winkler Dawson's debut Death in the Air is a gripping, historical narrative of a serial killer, an environmental disaster, and an iconic city struggling to regain its footing.

London was still recovering from the devastation of World War II when another disaster hit: for five long days in December 1952, a killer smog held the city firmly in its grip and refused to let go. Day became night, mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and some 12,000 people died from the poisonous air. But in the chaotic aftermath, another killer was stalking the streets, using the fog as a cloak for his crimes.

All across London, women were going missing--poor women, forgotten women. Their disappearances caused little alarm, but each of them had one thing in common: they had the misfortune of meeting a quiet, unassuming man, John Reginald Christie, who invited them back to his decrepit Notting Hill flat during that dark winter. They never left.

The eventual arrest of the "Beast of Rillington Place" caused a media frenzy: were there more bodies buried in the walls, under the floorboards, in the back garden of this house of horrors? Was it the fog that had caused Christie to suddenly snap? And what role had he played in the notorious double murder that had happened in that same apartment building not three years before--a murder for which another, possibly innocent, man was sent to the gallows?

The Great Smog of 1952 remains the deadliest air pollution disaster in world history, and John Reginald Christie is still one of the most unfathomable serial killers of modern times. Journalist Kate Winkler Dawson braids these strands together into a taut, compulsively readable true crime thriller about a man who changed the fate of the death penalty in the UK, and an environmental catastrophe with implications that still echo today.

Publisher: New York, NY :, Hachette Books,, [2017]
ISBN: 9780316506847
Characteristics: text file,rda
1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor


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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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