Kevin Turton, Britain’s Unsolved Murders (Pen & Sword, 2019)
In Britain’s Unsolved Murders, Kevin Turton presents a selection of thirteen crimes committed between 1857 and 1957. Turton sets the scene, provides a narrative of the murder and trial if there was one, then gives his verdict.
Some of the unsolved murders in Turton’s book are more famous than others; for example, the infamous Scottish verdict of ‘Not Proven’ delivered to Madeleine Smith in 1857 and the atrocious desecration of the young Bradford boy John Gill in 1888. While all of the murders contain a central mystery – who did it – a couple are truly baffling, namely the murders of Florence Nightingale Shore in 1920 and Evelyn Foster on a lonely moor in 1931. Others appear to have a more ready explanation to hand and only an investigative or trial error prevented the murderer being unmasked. In one case a jury member refused to convict the apparent murderer through his own conviction against Capital Punishment.
Turton narrates these stories in an engaging style, laying out the events in a straightforward manner. They are a good jumping off point for further reading, but some of the murders already have their own historian, most notably Diane Janes’ Death at Wolf’s Nick which is a brilliant forensic examination of an unsolved murder. A frustrating lack of footnotes and references, however, blunt further investigation by the reader into other cases. Turton also does not make it clear why he chose these murders across that particular century while leaving out many others and not including more modern cases. Given his personal edge to his verdicts, perhaps the title might be better read as Kevin Turton’s Casebook of Unsolved Crimes? Nevertheless, this works as a true crime book within that genre, but as an appetizer rather than a main course.