* Prices may differ from that shown
Square Mile of Murder is a book that was written in 1961 by journalist Jack House, I have to say that the tattered copy I picked up on an internet auction for next to nothing looked a little worse for wear than the one in this picture!
The book appealed to me because I'm a fan of true crime stories and at the time of buying it, I had just traced a family line back to Glasgow between 1830 and 1900, the periods of history sort of matched and I thought it would be an interesting read.
The square mile of murder contains 4 controversial murders that took place between 1857 and 1908 in the wealthy West end of Glasgow. Probably the most famous but for me least interesting was the case against Madeleine Smith, I'm not sure if it was down to the writing or the case itself but I did not find it at all intriguing, although it improved a little towards the end. The inclusion of the love letters between the pair that were found is I suppose essential and whilst seemingly saucy at the time of the court case, I found them pretty dull. I'm not a fan of the long over romantic letters of the era and was looking for a bit more gore!
It took me about a year to read the first story, I occasionally read a page or two and thought of giving up the book numerous times, I don't like not finishing a book that I've started though so decided to persevere. I found the remaining three stories to be much more interesting.These were 'The Sandyford Murder Case' where a female servant is brutally struck 40 times with a meat cleaver supposedly by her friend who claims that it was an old randy but upper class man, 'The Human Crocodile' - an experimental doctor who tortures his wife and mother in law to a slow painful death and finally Oscar Slater - an unfortunate German jew who was falsely imprisoned for years for something he never did.
It only took me a few days to finish the book once I got passed the Madeleine Smith story, it's a matter of taste but I don't think Jack House's writing is to blame, it's just that there's a lot of old 1850s material used in the first story which can be a bit heavy going unless you're a great fan of the period.
*I've had to revise the 'cheap' advantage because it's actually quite pricey on Amazon and Ebay... maybe I've struck gold even with the tattered copy after all!