Unsolved murders and other true crimes are not usually the subjects that first spring to mind when you think of Dorling Kindersley. However, the purveyors of some of the finest books in the world have dipped their toes into the darker side of life, and I am glad that they did.
First of all, there is the latest addition to the Dorling Kindersley Big Ideas Series – The Crime Book. My review of The Sherlock Holmes Book & The Science Book talks about the series as a whole so I’m going to skip talking about how fabulous this series of books is. Instead, I’m going to stick to talking about The Crime Book.
Quick Edit: I’ve had lot’s of people ask about the police hat and truncheon in this photo. Yes the police hat is mine, yes I was with the Surrey and then the Metropolitan Police in England, and the truncheon is my husbands. We met, while on duty with Surrey Police, in the UK.
The Crime Book – Big Ideas Simply Explained
The Crime Book provides a terrific overview of a wide range of criminal endeavors. From bank robberies and kidnappings to white-collar crime and political assassinations, an entire spectrum of illegal activity is laid out.
Each crime is dissected and laid bare, yet the writers manage to do this without resorting to gore or sensationalism. Instead, the plain details are delivered and then the crime is examined from all angles.
This is one of the great strengths of The Crime Book. You can read:
- An “In Context” section giving details of similar crimes both before and after the crime in question
- Profiles of victims, detectives, suspects, and perpetrators
- The science behind the investigation
- Psychological profiles of the criminals involved
- Details of the social impact of the crimes and
- Discussions about the issues raised.
Another great strength is that The Crime Book features an extensive range of crimes and avoids the trap of focussing on serial killers. Instead, while you can read about serial killers and other, less well-known murders, you can also discover:
- Organised Crime – From the Yakuza and the Triads to the Krays and the Medellin Cartel to name but a few.
- White-Collar Crime – Criminals can just as easily be found behind corporate desks as they can on the streets and this section explores the intentional crimes and the crimes of criminal neglect and cover-ups.
- Bandits, Robbers, & Assassins – Bonnie & Clyde, the Great Train Robbery, and Burke & Hare may be familiar crimes but do you know about the Theft of the World Cup? This and many more fascinating crimes can be found here.
Assassination & Political Plots, Murders, Serial Killers, Con Artists, and Kiddnaping & Extortion, round out the spread of criminal activity found within the pages of The Crime Book.
Overall, The Crime Book provides the reader with an intriguing taster of a broad range of crimes. The layout is clear and simple to read and provides an easy way to quickly grasp the salient details.
There is an eclectic, yet coheisive mixture of crimes from a range of geographical locations, sociological perspectives and time periods. This provides the reader with not only an interesting primer on each crime but the cultural context in which the crime occurred, making the profiles of those involved seem even more meaningful.
If you o the lucky person for whom you are buying The Crime Book, are looking for an in-depth examination of any one single crime in particular then this is not the book for you. By its very nature, The Crime Book is designed to give you a 10-minute or so read for each offense. However, this is also a strength.
As a true crime addict myself, I found it an interesting read for dipping into and discovering new criminals and crimes to investigate more deeply. For example, I am now looking further into Liu Pengli and his crimes.
On the flip side of that, when I came across a crime with which I was familiar, and had no desire to read about- for example, the murder of James Bulger- I didn’t feel like I had missed a whole chunk of the book.
On balance, would I recommend The Crime Book? That would be a yes, without reservation, just don’t blame me if you end up being sucked down the rabbit hole of true crime.
As the more deductively minded of you may have already worked out, Unsolved Murders focusses purely on some of the most infamous and perplexing unsolved murders in the last one hundred years.
Unlike some other unsolved murder books though, Unsolved Murders does not dwell on graphic descriptions of crime scenes or injuries. Instead, the book describes the scene with a 1950’s FBI “Just The Fact’s” manner. This provides enough information to explain the “who, what, where, when, and how” of the murder but doesn’t descend into unnecessarily graphic details.
This is an important point when you have kids in the house who may pick up the book unsupervised or look over your shoulder when you are reading. Thankfully there isn’t a single image that I would be concerned about my kiddos seeing and, as a consequence, I didn’t have to read it while doing an excellent impression of a meerkat on the lookout for imminent danger.
The bulk of each of the 20 “case-files” chooses instead to begin with a focus on the backgrounds and lives of the victims. Following that the investigation is examined and any suspects are discussed.
Rather interestingly there is also a wide range of unsolved murders from the Villisca Ax Murders and the Zodiac Killer to The Tylenol murders and the drive-by shootings of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
The only “cross-over” between Unsolved Murders and The Crime Book is the murder of Elizabeth Short. Known as The Black Dahlia murder, although this case is in both books, interestingly the entries are different enough to warrant reading both.
If you are a true crime newbie this is the perfect introduction to some of the most puzzling unsolved murders of the 20th & 21st centuries. A time frame which, thankfully, excludes Jack The Ripper so there is no entry on Londons famous 19th Century serial killer.
But what if you already know a little bit about some of humanities darker side?
No problem. The variety of crimes which are examined in Unsolved Murders provides even the most seasoned true crime addict an insight into something new.
Go out and buy your copy of Unsolved Murders asap. The book doesn’t have any answers but, just perhaps, this book will send you on a journey of exploration which ends with you solving one of these crimes.