Like some villainous master of disguise, Criminal London by Kris and Nina Hollington is a pocket masterpiece masquerading as an alternative city guide. Don't dismiss it — this fine book packs more original material than we've enjoyed in a long time.
With over 300 pages and more than 100 colour photos, Criminal London is thicker and chewier than a truncheon sandwich. The authors have tracked down dozens of stories relating to murders, heists and cons, including many forgotten chapters from recent history.
As well as detailing the more bizarre, extreme and crafty crimes to blight the capital, the authors also consider Her Majesty's Constabulary, with numerous rozzer references. The book even manages to find arresting anecdotes about the Krays and Jack the Ripper; some achievement given the amount of existing literature.
Too many new London guides trot out the same tired old suite of trivia, but the Hollingtons have really done their research, unearthing more nefarious nuggets than you'd find in a Norbury Fried Chicken: serial killers who've fallen from public cognizance, the multi-million pound bank jobs you've never heard of, and the particularly bloody history of London's left-luggage offices. We'd share some of the stories here but we (a) don't want to spoil the book and (b) want to hoard them for a future pub quiz!
In keeping with the book's spirit, the cover blurb indulges in its own spot of cheeky prevarication, claiming that there's never yet been a guide to London's darker side (even though a book of the same title already exists, and numerous others — like this — line our shelves). But this is an original book, and one that anyone with a passion for the city's history will greatly enjoy. At £10.99 RRP, or under £8 on Amazon, it's a steal.
Criminal London: A Sightseer's Guide to the Capital of Crime by Kris and Nina Hollington is out now from Aurum.
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