Handsome Brute: The Story of a Ladykiller

Sean O'Connor

Handsome Brute: The Story of a Ladykiller

Handsome Brute explores the facts of a once-renowned, now little-remembered British murder case, the killings of the charming, but deadly ex-RAF playboy Neville Heath. Since the 1940s, Heath has generally been dismissed as a sadistic sex-killer - the preserve of sensational Murder Anthologies - and little else. But the story behind the tabloid headlines reveals itself to be complex and ambiguous, provoking unsettling questions that echo across the decades to the present day. For the first time, with access to previously restricted files from the Home Office and Metropolitan Police, this book explores the complex motivations behind the murders through the prism of the immediate post-war period. Against the backdrop of a society in flux, a culture at a moment of change, how much is Heath's case symptomatic, or indeed, emblematic of the age he lived in? 4.0 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
Handsome Brute: The Story of a Ladykiller

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre True Crime
Format
Pages 480
RRP
Date of Publication February 2013
ISBN 978-1471101335
Publisher Simon & Schuster
 

Handsome Brute explores the facts of a once-renowned, now little-remembered British murder case, the killings of the charming, but deadly ex-RAF playboy Neville Heath. Since the 1940s, Heath has generally been dismissed as a sadistic sex-killer - the preserve of sensational Murder Anthologies - and little else. But the story behind the tabloid headlines reveals itself to be complex and ambiguous, provoking unsettling questions that echo across the decades to the present day. For the first time, with access to previously restricted files from the Home Office and Metropolitan Police, this book explores the complex motivations behind the murders through the prism of the immediate post-war period. Against the backdrop of a society in flux, a culture at a moment of change, how much is Heath's case symptomatic, or indeed, emblematic of the age he lived in?

Reviews

The Evening Standard

William Leith

O’Connor tells the whole story beautifully. It’s the best true-crime book I’ve read for ages.

14/02/2013

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The Independent

Diana Souhami

Sean O'Connor's brilliance is to sustain the horrific dramatic tension of these murders while providing a rich and detailed context of place and period. His tone is careful and dispassionate, his research painstaking and extensive: not just into Heath's life and criminal career, but the lives of his family, victims and prosecutors. The personal stories are the more disturbing set against the backdrop of a world war in which up to 70 million people have died.

22/02/2013

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The Mail on Sunday

Craig Brown

One of the many virtues of this absorbing book is the detailed attention it gives to Heath’s victims. It’s hard to read the first paragraph of the autobiographical novel Margery had started writing in an exercise book (‘Always new places, new faces, for Julie was out to conquer the world. . .’) without feeling a sense of sadness and of loss.

23/02/2013

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The Times

Ben Macintyre

In this fine, balanced book, which spares no detail but avoids any hint of salacity, O’Connor has written something more valuable than a “Whydunnit”. This is a fascinating portrait of a dreary, uncertain post-war world of drinking dens, cruddy hotels and hopes unfulfilled. You can almost taste the ration-book Brown Windsor soup.

23/02/2013

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

Keenly intelligent … Previous books about Heath have fixed on the story’s gruesome and titillating aspects. But O’Connor restores its human dimension ... He brings home the grief of the bereaved families, and collects a mass of detail about the two victims — everything from their school prizes to the contents of their handbags — so that they become people again, not mangled corpses. He sees Heath as the product of historical forces.

17/02/2013

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©2013 The Omnivore