Monday, December 26, 2016

Scotland Yard's First Cases by Joan Lock

book cover
Scotland Yard's First Cases
by Joan Lock

ISBN-13: 9780709091257
eBook: 192 pages
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Released: Dec. 13, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
When Scotland Yard’s first detective branch was set up in 1842 crime was very different from today.

The favoured murder weapon was the cut-throat razor; carrying a pocket watch was dangerous; the most significant clue at a murder scene could be the whereabouts of a candlestick or hat; large households (family, servants and lodgers) complicated many a case and servants sometimes murdered their masters.

Detectives had few aids and suffered many disadvantages. There was no way of telling whether blood (or hair) was human or animal. Fingerprinting was fifty years away, DNA profiling another hundred and photography was too new to help with identification. The detectives had no transport and were expected to walk the first three miles on any enquiry before catching an omnibus or cab and trying to recoup the fares. All reports had to be handwritten with a dip pen and ink and the only means of keeping contact with colleagues and disseminating information was by post, horseback or foot.

In spite of these handicaps and severe press criticism, the detectives achieved some significant successes. Joan Lock includes such classic cases as the First Railway Murder, as well as many fascinating, fresh reports, weaving in new developments like the electric telegraph against a background of authentic Victorian police procedure.

My Review:
Scotland Yard's First Cases looked at detective work done by London's police between 1836 and 1907. The focus was on the earlier years, and the 1870s through 1907 were more an overview than details of cases. The author described various cases--mostly murder cases, but also other types of cases dealt with by the detectives. The details of these cases come from case files, court reports, and newspaper articles from that time.

Through these cases, the author pointed out the difficulties that the recently formed police had, what events motivated the formation of a detective force, and the changes, challenges, and cases faced by that detective force. She also described the changes in technology that helped the detectives solve cases and get their man or woman.

I'd recommend this book to true crime fans, especially those interested in early detective work and the changes brought about by developing technologies.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Ann Marie Ackermann said...

This book sounds interesting, especially because it sounds like it goes into the interplay between historical techniques and the ability to solve crimes. Thanks for the review!

Debbie said...

Yes, and that's part of what I found so interesting about it. Thanks for commenting.