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The notorious identical twins whose crime organization terrorized mid-20th-century London were “the most wicked gangsters Britain has ever seen,” assert former jewel thief Hamilton and author Cabell.

Both men published books about Reginald and Ronald Kray in 2002, but Hamilton (Branded by Ronnie Kray, not reviewed) and Cabell (The Kray Brothers—The Image Shattered, not reviewed) declare that there’s more to tell. Here they team up to focus on murders committed by the brothers—many more than the two for which the Krays got life sentences in 1969. Interviews with major players like former gangster Eric Mason and key prosecuting attorney Leonard Read, coupled with documentation from the National Archive, paint a scary picture of “The Kray Firm,” a criminal organization based on racketeering, fraud and vicious bloodshed. The real psychopath, it’s generally conceded, was Ronnie: schizophrenic, violent and addicted to pills. But Reggie helped him wreak increasing havoc as their cutthroat association’s influence spread. In 1969, attorney Leonard Read prosecuted both men for the murders of rival gangster George Cornell and Kray Firm member Jack McVitie, whose body was never recovered. Armed with an arsenal of painstakingly procured evidence, Read got life sentences for the twins, who had to serve 30 years without the possibility of parole. (Ronnie died in confinement in 1995; Reggie was released on compassionate grounds in 2000 and died of cancer weeks later.) There didn’t seem to be much point in incurring the expense of further prosecutions, but the authors believe “the full truth” must be told to counteract the glamorized image the Krays cultivated by hobnobbing with celebrities and politicians. Written mostly in the first-person voice of 76-year-old Hamilton, the text meticulously dissects and scrutinizes come half-dozen other murders for which the Krays were never charged.

A thorough, chilling and absorbing true-crime chronicle.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-84454-259-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: John Blake/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2007