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LONDON’S UNDERWORLD

THREE CENTURIES OF VICE AND CRIME

Dense and informative: a book to keep on hand when reading any kind of period literature that touches on London’s dark side.

Rich chronological account of the English capital’s seamier side, from the dreaded footpads of the 18th century to the organized crime syndicates of the 20th.

Linnane (London: Wicked City, 2004) turns a scholarly eye on the various rough characters who have scraped (or shoveled) a dishonest living from the streets, alleys and racecourses. There's no shortage of material; London had no organized police force until the mid-1800s, so for much of the city’s history crooks operated with a great deal of freedom. Citizens had to rely on thief takers—bounty hunters, essentially—who trapped and turned over criminals for the reward. Linnane begins with the most famous of these: Jonathan Wild, “the original Godfather,” a double-dealer who was as pleased to be bought off by the thieves as turn them in. This age also saw the rise of footpads, gangs of thieves who quite willingly murdered their victims to make good an escape on foot. Schools of vice like Fagin’s establishment in Oliver Twist were quite common, and pickpocketing seems to have been endemic in the crowded London streets. Linnane explicates underworld slang, from highwaymen and garrotters to rookeries and peelers. He also traces the rise of London’s gangs and their charismatic leaders: Jack Spot, Billy Hill, the Sabinis and the Kray twins, all intent on running the city’s rackets. The author carefully places each event and character in context, leading to some redundancy, but with so many criminal empires and aspirations to keep straight, it’s a forgivable fault. A lengthy bibliography and extensive index make the work more than just a sightseer's romp through 300 years of slums.

Dense and informative: a book to keep on hand when reading any kind of period literature that touches on London’s dark side.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 1-86105-742-3

Page Count: 372

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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