Book Habit Blog: Death in the Air

by  Kate Winkler Dawson

It tells you something when a book about killer smog and a serial killer in post-war London qualifies as a welcome diversion from these tense and perilous days we now inhabit.

In 1952, Great Britain is struggling to overcome the economic and political consequences of WW II. King George VI dies in February and is succeeded by his 25-year-old daughter, Elizabeth; the government is struggling with massive debt; twelve thousand English soldiers are fighting in Korea.; crime is rampant. However, London’s homes are warm. Millions use coal to heat and cook. Almost forty coal-fired power stations keep the city electrified. But there are zero environmental standards in place to alleviate all the resulting pollution.

In December, for five days, the air becomes a poison that keeps killing hour after hour.

In that same year, in those darkened streets, another kind of poison becomes apparent. A quiet man whom no one notices is inviting women back to his flat, murdering them and burying them in his garden.

Dawson is a very good reporter and writer. She weaves together the stories of the smog and the killer so as to illuminate the historical moment when all manner of modern toxins