Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book review: "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

I'd heard from several other book bloggers who enjoy nonfiction like I do rave about this book, so I decided to pick it up for myself. It was okay. I learned a lot but I didn't find myself rushing through whatever I was doing to get back to this book. There are two stories told in parallel, the fact that there is a terrible fog that is metaphorically strangling London and a serial killer who is literally strangling people in London. 

It was weird, but it seemed like all of the things that I liked the most about this book were little throw away sentences, not things that were part of the big overarching story. Like, a prayer starts each parliament meeting and instead of the parliament members kneeling to pray they turn and face a wall, which is because 400 years ago they were all wearing swords and that makes kneeling hard and you know, potentially dangerous.

So this fog, it was bad. It was if you were standing on your doorstep you couldn't see the sidewalk bad. It was so bad they had to shut down the subway bad. It was so bad that over the course of 5 days it killed 12,000 people. (Mostly the very old, the very young, or people with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Like, say, men who had encounters in the first world war with mustard gas.)

I found the serial killer bit less compelling. He was creepy and bad and killed a woman and her baby and his wife and several others.

I almost think that these would have been better as two separate books. Or maybe as the same book but the stories given less equal footing like they were here.


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