Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City

by Kate Winkler Dawson


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A real-life thriller in the vein of The Devil in the White City, Kate Winkler Dawson's debut Death in the Air is a gripping, historical narrative of a serial killer, an environmental disaster, and an iconic city struggling to regain its footing.

London was still recovering from the devastation of World War II when another disaster hit: for five long days in December 1952, a killer smog held the city firmly in its grip and refused to let go. Day became night, mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and some 12,000 people died from the poisonous air. But in the chaotic aftermath, another killer was stalking the streets, using the fog as a cloak for his crimes.

All across London, women were going missing--poor women, forgotten women. Their disappearances caused little alarm, but each of them had one thing in common: they had the misfortune of meeting a quiet, unassuming man, John Reginald Christie, who invited them back to his decrepit Notting Hill flat during that dark winter. They never left.

The eventual arrest of the "Beast of Rillington Place" caused a media frenzy: were there more bodies buried in the walls, under the floorboards, in the back garden of this house of horrors? Was it the fog that had caused Christie to suddenly snap? And what role had he played in the notorious double murder that had happened in that same apartment building not three years before--a murder for which another, possibly innocent, man was sent to the gallows?

The Great Smog of 1952 remains the deadliest air pollution disaster in world history, and John Reginald Christie is still one of the most unfathomable serial killers of modern times. Journalist Kate Winkler Dawson braids these strands together into a taut, compulsively readable true crime thriller about a man who changed the fate of the death penalty in the UK, and an environmental catastrophe with implications that still echo today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316506861
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 10/17/2017
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 602,625
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Kate Winkler Dawson is a seasoned documentary producer, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, WCBS News and ABC News Radio, Fox News Channel, United Press International, PBS NewsHour, and Nightline. She teaches journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Pressure 8

Chapter 2 Blackout 24

Chapter 3 Restrained 49

Chapter 4 Trapped 73

Chapter 5 Bodies in the Mist 94

Chapter 6 Postmortem 116

Chapter 7 Smothered 144

Chapter 8 Hearth and Home 164

Chapter 9 Squeezed 183

Chapter 10 Buried 206

Chapter 11 Illumination 234

Chapter 12 Infamous 252

Chapter 13 Legacy 270

Epilogue 282

Acknowledgments 299

Notes 303

Index 335

About the Author 342

A Q&A with Kate Winkler Dawson, author of Death in the Air 343

What People are Saying About This

author of London Fog: The Biography - Christine L. Corton

“A London peasouper hangs over the city as a serial killer stalks its streets! This is a true tale of criminal violence against the backdrop of one of the worst environmental disasters of all time, one that led to the death of 12,000 people. It is a narrative that has relevance to the world's pollution problems of today and is also an engrossing read.”

New York Times bestselling author of American Pharoah and Our Boys - Joe Drape

“A killer fog. A killer loose amidst it. Dawson does what skilled storytellers do: drops you in a London peopled by finely etched characters and keeps you turning pages through the twist and turns of a harrowing case.”

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