Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries during the London Blitz

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries during the London Blitz

5.0 4
by Molly Lefebure
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

It is 1941. While the "war of chaos" rages in the skies above London, an unending fight against violence, murder and the criminal underworld continues on the streets below.

One ordinary day, in an ordinary courtroom, forensic pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson asks a keen young journalist to be his secretary. Although the "horrors of secretarial work" don't appeal to

Overview

It is 1941. While the "war of chaos" rages in the skies above London, an unending fight against violence, murder and the criminal underworld continues on the streets below.

One ordinary day, in an ordinary courtroom, forensic pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson asks a keen young journalist to be his secretary. Although the "horrors of secretarial work" don't appeal to Molly Lefebure, she's intrigued to know exactly what goes on behind a mortuary door.

Capable and curious, "Miss Molly" quickly becomes indispensible to Dr. Simpson as he meticulously pursues the truth. Accompanying him from somber morgues to London's most gruesome crime scenes, Molly observes and assists as he uncovers the dark secrets that all murder victims keep.

With a sharp sense of humor and a rebellious spirit, Molly tells her own remarkable true story here with warmth and wit, painting a vivid portrait of wartime London.

Editorial Reviews

Sunday Mirror (UK)
"Gripping. . . like a pitch-dark version of Call the Midwife, dealing with the end of life rather than the beginning . . . Full of fascinating incidents, it is easy to see why this has been made into a drama by the creators of Downton Abbey.
The Independent (UK)
"A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at mid-century crime-fighting."
From the Publisher
"[A] stunning memoir . . . . A former journalist, [Lefebure] evokes the physical and emotional terrain of crime scenes and the circumstances of death with adroit detachment, yet also authoritative depth . . . . She is such a wonderful, arch, thinking, intelligent guide to this strange underworld that you don't want Lefebure's wonderful tales to end. . . .[She] has bequeathed us a book which teaches so much about death-taking away much of the worst kind of fear and mystery around it, while reminding us that so much about it remains necessarily unknowable. It's a lesson imparted with the best kind of wry smile."—The Daily Beast"

Lefebure's narration provides a welcome alternative to wartime era tales; she's a young, single, professional woman, not a soldier or an evacuated Londoner. A sympathetic narrator and an engrossing read."—Historical Novel Society"

A secretary to a formidable London pathologist during World War II reissues her wry, grisly account of murder and corpses, first published in 1955. . . Lefebure's youthful bravery shines through, while the grim conditions showcase her terrific wit. Preserves like a frozen capsule the British grin-and-bear-it spirit and vocabulary of the WWII years."—Kirkus Reviews "

Gripping. . . like a pitch-dark version of Call the Midwife, dealing with the end of life rather than the beginning . . . Full of fascinating incidents, it is easy to see why this has been made into a drama by the creators of Downton Abbey. Sunday Mirror (UK)"

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at mid-century crime-fighting."—The Independent (UK)

Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-02
A secretary to a formidable London pathologist during World War II reissues her wry, grisly account of murder and corpses, first published in 1955. Lefebure was a junior reporter at a London suburban weekly when Dr. Keith Simpson, the Home Office pathologist at Guy's Hospital, tapped her as having the right stuff to be his forensics secretary. An intrepid workaholic who was hardly bashful or squeamish, and thoroughly capable, Lefebure—whose name her colleagues could not pronounce, so she was known as Miss L—was highly intrigued by the forensics work of her swift-moving boss. The work took her across bomb-scarred London to a dozen post-mortems per day, as well as to the various courts and Scotland Yard. The author's job was to type up the reports as the pathologist dictated while laboring over his cadaver, no matter the time or place—e.g., during the bombings by the Germans. She coolly collected specimens of hair or teeth in little bags and labeled them so that the team could figure out the cause of death later in the lab. Her chapters break down in chronological order some of the notable or simply memorable cases she encountered from the spring of 1941, when she visited her first mortuary, where she was impressed by the cleanliness of the operation though put off by "the sound of a saw raspingly opening a skull," to the late autumn of 1945, after the war had wound down, when she was planning on marrying and needed to find her successor—job qualifications: "Typing. Good verbatim shorthand. Tact. Interested in crime. No objection to mortuaries and corpses. Reasonably fast runner." Despite the many ghastly descriptions of ruined cadavers, Lefebure's youthful bravery shines through, while the grim conditions showcase her terrific wit. Preserves like a frozen capsule the British grin-and-bear-it spirit and vocabulary of the WWII years.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455576067
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
04/01/2014
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
256,128
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

Meet the Author

Molly Lefebure was secretary to acclaimed forensic pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson during the Second World War. Her memoir of her time at the Department of Forensic Medicine was originally published in 1955 as Evidence for the Crown. She went on to write children's books, a biography of Coleridge and several novels and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature before her death in 2013.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries during the London Blitz 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gritty true stories of murders, but told very cleverly. The author and her writing style pull you in, and this makes reading about some awful stuff really interesting. The time period and settings adds to the book as well. Another excellent book on the NOOK is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. This is a historical fiction based on actual events and a true villian. It too has a strong and well written female character as part of the novel. Both books deserve A+++++++++
Ariana_EJR More than 1 year ago
Someone should be commended for reprinting this book. Molly Lefebre landed what was either a plum book or a horror, as a secretary to one of the great pathologist of World War II London. I believe that it was recently made into a two part movie. The book is great. As befits the subject it is darkly funny and pulls no punches. She describes a the murder of a woman and "The room was unbelievably dirty, and though you couldn't see the bugs they were there. ...The place was rotten and reeking with dirt. She muses about people living in filth and ends,: Personally I feel that a clean prostitute was better than a dirty stinking housewife who lets her children live like cockroaches. Ms Lefebre gives us a good picture of both the work of a pathologist, and of the police, and of conditions in London during the last years of the wars. The part describing the 'doodle-bombs' gave me a lot of insight into Britain and their sheer determination, or as Molly herself puts summing up her and everyone else's attitudes" "Or sheer British cussedness; Hitler wants to win, so we're not going to let him," I've read any number of books on WwwII. This reprint, it was originally printed in 1955, is a welcome addition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting, good book that can be read as a series of short stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago