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Good Books to Read!


Behind the Blue Lamp: Scotland Yard's Police Stations 1829 - 2020 by Alan Moss, David Swinden & Peter Kennison

With a Foreword by Dame Cressida Dick, this is a re-designed and updated amalgamation of the books in our series Behind the Blue Lamp, More Behind the Blue Lamp, and Discovering More Behind the Blue Lamp.   It is a hardback volume of 507 pages with chapters on the Metropolitan Police District, its boroughs and history; a gazetteer of all the police stations ever operated by the Metropolitan Police; Thames Division; Royal Dockyards; police uniform & equipment; police ranks; Women Police; a history of Metropolitan Police divisions; a chart of warrant numbers allocated by year; and a list of section houses.  For each police station there is a photograph of the building and its replacements over time, often including stories of individuals who served there and other aspects of police history.   It is a great resource for those interested in how the architecture and usage of police stations has changed over the years, a reminder for those who served or lived in those stations 'behind the blue lamp', and an insight into where one's police ancestors lived and worked.    Comprehensively illustrated, this is, in some ways, a tribute to the sometimes overlooked succession of Chief Architects and Surveyors working for the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police District, more recently the Property Services Department and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.    ISBN 978-1-914277-23-8  now published by Mango Books.

Scotland Yard's History of Crime in 100 Objects by Alan Moss and Keith Skinner

This book tells the stories behind many famous investigations conducted by Scotland Yard, using images of objects in the Crime Museum.   The Crime Museum has always been closed to the general public but this book shows exhibits from many famous cases, including Dr Crippen's pyjamas, the cashbox where a thumb print convicted the Stratton brothers of the first British murder case relying on fingerprint evidence, a Victorian dynamite bomb, a doctored roulette wheel, and the Millennium diamond that was the subject of an armed robbery at the O2 arena foiled by the Flying Squad.   There is an EFIT picture of Andrejez Kunowski convicted of rape in 2003, along with the first Identikit pictures used in Britain in 1961 and a witness album picture of Michael Ostrog named as a possible 'Jack the Ripper' suspect by Melville MacNaghten in 1894.   The pencilled notes about Jack the Ripper in Detective Chief Inspector Donald Swanson's book are also pictured.   The briefcase with a hypodermic syringe that featured in the Kray brothers trial, and the torture machine used by the Richardson gang are also featured.   Updated and in a paperback edition in 2022, the new edition features a suicide belt, an antique bowl, the Hatton Garden safe deposit burglary and an online scammers's equipment.

ISBN 978-0-7509-6287-2    Hardback, 400 pages, published 2015 by The History Press  

ISBN 9 780750 998635   Paperback, 408 pages, published 2022, again by History Press

The Victorian Detective by Alan Moss & Keith Skinner

A well-illustrated 56-page book dealing with Bow Street, Nicholas Pearce and the first Detective Branch, Jonathan Whicher, Prince of Detectives, operations against terrorists in Victorian times, leading up to the introduction of fingerprints.      Published in 2013 by Shire   ISBN 978-0-74781-283-8



The Scotland Yard Files:  Milestones in Crime Detection by Alan Moss & Keith Skinner.  

This book tells the story of how Scotland Yard's detective branch was formed, the first cases involving identification parades, fingerprints, ballistics evidence, Identikit, as well as the inside story of Dr Crippen, Jack the Ripper and many other crimes, all based on the authentic accounts from The National Archives where Scotland Yard's files are stored.    Published 2006 by The National Archives with a Foreword by now Lord, Sir Ian Blair QPM    ISBN  1-903365-88-0.  

From Green to Blue by Jonathan Cox

Not one we have read ourselves, but Amazon describes:

'Orphaned at 18, a naive and solitary Chris Pritchard joins the Metropolitan Police in search of a family friends and a regular income.   He is posted to a station in London's tough East End....a journey which is regularly amusing, frequently sad and occasionally bizarre.'


The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman:  The Life and Crimes of Mrs Gordon Baillie by Mick Davis & David Lassman

A comprehensive and well-researched account of a woman born in poverty in Scotland who developed enormous skill both in passing herself off as a respectable and well-born lady and in securing credit and loans from many friends and traders on Scotland, London and abroad.    In a reflection of how people were regarded and welcomed into Victorian society on the recommendations of people they knew, she lived the high life, but had to keep moving on before her debts caught up with her.   In an age before police fingerprint collections and modern standards of identification she was often given the benefit of other people's money.   Eventually she was prosecuted by Detective Inspector Henry Marshall of Scotland Yard and sent to prison for a series of relatively small sums of money from dishonoured cheques.   Local rumours, reputational gossip and newspaper reports seem to have been the best source for collating the many different frauds that she perpetrated using a host of different names, and one can sympathise with the task faced by Henry Marshall in reflecting the true scale of her fraudulent lifestyle in charges that could be proved in court.   She was an infamous character whose activities became well reported in the newspapers of the day and secured her place in the history of female criminals.   Hardback   350 pages  Pen & Sword

The Brighton Police Scandal:  A Story of Corruption, Intimidation and Violence by Dick Kirby


This is a welcome, detailed account of the background to the prosecution of Brighton police officers around 1957 and their Chief Constable.   The case was one of a series of scandals that also included other Chief Constables, such as Cardiganshire, Worcester and Nottingham police forces, and was one of the disturbing events that led to the Willinck Royal Commission, the 1964 Police Act and a series of amalgamations of police forces in England and Wales that led to the current 43.   Reading this book reminds us of the abject standard of leadership and supervision in some places at the time, the successful investigation of the case by the Metropolitan Police, and a salutary warning about how watch committees led by local politicians could sometimes fail in their responsibilities towards their police forces.   ISBN 1399017284    Pen & Sword


Mr Crippen, Cora and The Body in the Basement by Matthew Coniam

This is a well-researched book about the famous case of Dr Crippen who stood trial and was executed for the murder of his wife Cora in 1910.   Newspaper coverage was extensive because it involved an American, an actress, an affair, human flesh found under a cellar floor, the use of a new Marconi device from a ship to alert Scotland Yard about two suspicious passengers, and a sea chase across the Atlantic to return Crippen to face justice at the Old Bailey.    This was the first prominent case to feature Dr Bernard Spilsbury as an expert pathologist.   Spilsbury's original slides were retrieved from the museum at the Royal London hospital and examined for DNA, resulting in a sincere conclusion that the flesh had been male, thereby creating controversy about the case that will no doubt gather momentum in the future and spawn further theories, imitating Jack the Ripper controversies.    Most of Cora Crippen's body was never recovered, and the book cannot credibly explain whose flesh was found wrapped in Crippen's pyjamas.   Tying up all the loose ends is impossible, and it is regrettable that the author has to make unwarranted speculation about police malpractice in order to complete the chain of logic that would establish Crippen's innocence.    Amazon

Books by Dick Kirby

Dick Kirby's books are all good reads, written in a unique graphic style, combining personal recollections of his time as a Scotland Yard detective, research from police records and memories of retired police officers who were involved in the cases.   Most of them are published by Pen & Sword:

Death on the Beat   stories of infamous incidents that resulted in the death of police officers going about their normal course of duty, and suddenly finding themselves caught up in dramatic and violent events that have defined the risks of police work over the years.  Foreword by Michael Winner.   Pen and Sword  206 pages hardback Amazon

The Brave Blue Line - 100 years of Metropolitan Police Gallantry.    In our opinion, this is simply the best book about police gallantry ever written, and arguably the best book of any sort about gallantry awards.   The stories of each incident are of course gripping tales in themselves, but Dick Kirby has researched and recounted the events not just from the citations, but also from the background that led to the events, the connections between criminal gangs that linked some stories, and the previously unpublished details of incidents that result in the readers finding themselves transported into the grip of the maelstrom.   The reader will never forget the details of the intervention of a dog handler trying to rescue a female officer on decoy duty being attacked, nor the comment of our Queen when presenting one officer with the George Cross.   The baby rescued from a rooftop has been interviewed many years later as an adult, and gives his own perspective of having been the centre of a dramatic rescue.  This book is a welcome tribute to those many officers who have shown exemplary courage in their efforts to protect London's public, and the author has performed a great service to the public in ensuring that these stories can be read by the public.   It comes with our highest possible recommendation.   Pen & Sword.  193 pages and index  ISBN 9 781848 846524   19.99     Amazon

Scotland Yard's Ghost Squad - The Secret Weapon against Post-War Crime.  Some wonderful stories about how Scotland Yard responded to London's crime problems after World War Two.   More than that, it reflects the culture of policing, the personalities, and the trail from Hymie the Gambler's information to the 96 year-old veteran whose hand on the whisky bottle was as steady as his discretion.   It is well researched, not least in using the private memoirs lent by families of stalwarts whose courage and dedication set the pace for central crime fighting squads for many years to come.   John Gosling  was to stay with the Squad from start to finish, for instance, and represented, with great distinction, the tradition of straightforward, 'old-fashioned' battling against crime and corruption in London.   ISBN 978 1 84884 4513  Pen & Sword  224 pages paperback   Amazon

The Sweeney - The First 60 Years of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad  is a terrific book about one of the squads at the Yard who really policed London at the sharp end, and protected the public from the gangs of violent robbers and other criminals who would otherwise have run riot in the capital.   There are accounts of the battle at Heathrow, the race track gangs, the great train robbery and many other operations.   Some criminals come quietly - but most of those investigated by the Flying Squad certainly didn't.   So the discipline, courage and tenacity of this proud group of officers merits their place in policing history.    ISBN 978 1 84884 390 5  Pen & Sword Books.   215 pages hardback.  Amazon

The Guv'nors - Ten of Scotland Yard's Greatest Detectives features that select band of leaders of crime investigation in London who pass the test of being regarded as detectives' detectives.  In the years before modern legislation and science started to regulate investigations, these were men who occupied the commanding heights of courage, leadership and shrewdness to win the fight against the criminals of their day, and won hard-earned laurels as the builders of Scotland Yard's world-wide reputation.   The list includes Fred Wensley, 'Nutty' Sharpe, Peter Beveridge, Ted Greeno, Robert Fabian, John Capstick, Ernest Millen, Tommy Butler, Ian Forbes and Bert Wickstead.   ISBN 978 1 84563 135 2.   Pen & Sword  208 pages  Amazon

The Real Sweeney - The First 60 Years of Scotland Yard's Crime-Busting Flying Squad   Amazon

Laid Bare: The Nude Murders and the Hunt for 'Jack the Stripper'   A series of murders of prostitutes in and around Hammersmith, west London between 1959 and 1965.  The History Press

The Wrong Man:  The Shooting of Steven Waldorf and the Hunt for David Martin A case that was the catalyst for reviewing firearms training and use.   The History Press

The Scourge of Soho:  The Controversial Career of SAS hero Detective Sergeant Harry Challenor MM   A balanced account of the activities of DS Challenor who was medically discharged from the Metropolitan Police, but whose junior colleagues went to prison.  Pen & Sword

Scotland Yard's Murder Squad A series of famous cases dealt with by Scotland Yard detectives   Pen & Sword

The Rise and Fall of the Police Box by John Bunker

This book is a unique history of the police box, sometimes known as the Tardis by Doctor Who fans.   It is not just London versions, but the whole history of their use in places such as America, Scotland and Liverpool, written by a retired Superintendent who is known as an expert on the history of police communications.   Paperback, 160 pages and 127 illustrations.   ISBN 978-1-85858-465-2   9.95 from   Brewin Books

The Complete Jack the Ripper A to Z by Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner is indeed the Ultimate Guide to the Whitechapel Murders, and a most welcome revision of what is regarded as a widely respected and authoritative reference work free from bias about particular theories.   A definite asset to anybody seeking information about detailed aspects of the murders, and well illustrated throughout its 580 pages (including index).   ISBN 978-1-84454-797-5   published by John Blake   17.99   Amazon 
The Chieftain - Victorian True crime through the eyes of a Scotland Yard Detective by Chris Payne.   This is an account of the life of Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke who was one of the early detectives, rising to be a senior detective at Scotland Yard in a period which saw the rise of Irish terrorism, baby farming cases, and Clarke's involvement in several high profile murder cases.  Known as 'The Chieftain', his career ended with retirement after being involved, and acquitted in The Trial of the Detectives, a betting and corruption scandal in 1877.   His career therefore spans a really interesting period of Metropolitan Police history.   This is an extraordinarily thoroughly researched book.   Not only does it contain biographical details of the author's ancestor, it deals with the cases that he investigated in detail, and a wonderful background of what was happening in the London policing scene of the time.    More details from the author's website .   Published by the History Press.   14.99 paperback


The Ulster Tales - A Tribute to those who served 1969 - 2000 is a collection of the stories of ten people who went to Northern Ireland and did their impressive best to fulfil their various roles for the greater good of the province amidst traumatic and dispiriting community conflict, violence and terrorism, when the origins of individuals were often seen as symbolic disqualifications for taking their good intentions at face value.  The stories clearly originate from the people themselves and how they found the experience  of venturing into what could be a cauldron of conflict, and have been summarised by John Wilsey, a former military senior officer.   A journalist, industrialist, undercover soldier, police officer, general, intelligence officer, a widow and politician are included in these tales, which make a fitting record of the courage, commitment and dedication of many fine people who dedicated many years of their lives for the common good, and represent those who should be recognised by history despite the realities of politics having left them largely unthanked.  19.99

ISBN 9 781848 845244  Pen & Sword Books 180 pp hardback. Amazon


DNA Crime Investigations, by Stephen Wade (187 pages) is a good account of interesting cases in which DNA has been involved.  It starts with an explanation about DNA and its more recent developments, the historic cases such as Robert Melias and Colin Pitchfork, and then runs through 18 other cases, some of which were concluded in 2009.

ISBN 978 1 84563 105 5   19.99  Published by  Pen and Sword


Crime Scene Investigator - Gripping True Stories of Forensic Detection   by Paul Millen.   Paul Millen started his career in the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory, and then became a well-respected Scenes of Crime Officer working in London's East End and later on the Flying Squad where at one stage he worked with Dick Kirby (above).   There are some excellent stories of forensic crime investigation, but also an account of how he left the Met and developed a forensic crime facility for Surrey Police.

Publisher: Robinson ISBN 978-1-84529-663-6 or on-line


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