The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811

P. D. James, Author, T. A. Critchley, Author, T. A. Athomas Alan Critchley, Photographer Mysterious Press $3.99 (234p) ISBN 978-0-89296-152-8
In 1811, London's East End was the scene of a series of murders so brutal and irrational that they caused panic throughout the city, which lacked a central police force. This engrossing account, marking the American nonfiction debut of British mystery novelist James, details the seven vicious (""brains battered out and throats butchered''), apparently motiveless slayings (which occurred first in a linen shop, then, days later, in a nearby pub); the confused efforts of local ``police'' groups; and the cases' suspiciously abrupt closing after suspect John Williams, a seaman and lodger at the Pear Tree public house, committed suicide in jail, thereby sealing his ``guilt'' and prompting a bizarre parade of his corpse (together with a murderous maul) throughout the city. James and police historian Critchley use documents and contemporary news accounts splendidly, pointing up the incompetence of the investigators and offering an intriguing view of what really happened. First published in Britain in 1971, this will certainly please James's following here. (March 25)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1989
Release date: 02/01/1989
Hardcover - 345 pages - 978-0-8161-4276-7
Paperback - 263 pages - 978-0-571-20282-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-445-40562-2
Paperback - 372 pages - 978-0-571-25808-6
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-446-67921-3
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