In 1952, post-World War II London was battling more than reconstruction, and Kate Winkler Dawson’s “Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, The Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City” is a stellar examination of a turbulent time in the city’s history.
Stagnant, cool air hung over London in December 1952, mixing with the billowing smoke from cheap coal used to heat area homes. The end result was a horrible smog that was so thick that cars crashed, trains derailed and people out walking in familiar neighborhoods could not find their way home. The effects also made countless people sick with breathing issues, and many died as a result.
While this visible killer was covering London, another killer was working silently, strangling women after earning their trust. When John Reginald Christie was finally apprehended, his story changed, depending on the day. As police began to trace his activities, they soon realized he might be responsible for an earlier murder, and an innocent man might have been executed.
Dawson’s background in documentaries and journalism makes this journey more than just a retelling of the facts. She tracked down people who lived it, and now readers will vividly experience that period as well. Jeff Ayers, AP