First things first – this is a beautifully designed book. It’s a good slab of a coffee-table book for its £12.99, and is visually striking. That’s not just the front cover, but throughout – the page design is lovely, the choice of black/white/orange works extremely well, and I’d be proud to have written a book that is presented so well by the publisher.
It’s also a bit of a page turner. There’s not that much text on each page – the focus is on the images throughout, which are artefacts and documents taken from the exhibition, and that is absolutely the right approach. Yet it is still difficult to put down. Because there is only a relatively short amount of text per story or theme, the temptation is to ‘just’ read another page or story before you finish.
There is a mix of cases presented here – both famous crimes (or infamous), and those that were once famous but are now rather forgotten about, or those that were always seen as less newsworthy than others, because of their mundanity or commonality. Therefore, there’s something for everyone (as long as you have an interest in crime in the first place, that is).
Those are the good points – and they far outweigh the bad. There are a few typos, which is a shame (for example, one of the murderers mentioned in the book has his name spelled two different ways); an index would have been useful to look up individuals or particular case.
The timeline that the exhibition itself uses would have been good to have more clearly in the book. Although there is a fairly short one that whizzes through the key developments, I would have liked a more comprehensive, slightly more detailed timeline, using a larger font and clearer design for dates. There is always an emphasis here on the criminals and their victims, but I am curious about the detectives themselves, some of whose names are listed, but whose work and lives are ignored or glossed over.
But if you have your interest whetted in a particular case, individual, or artefact, this book will give you the information you need. The photography is very good, and so the book acts as an aide memoire after visiting the exhibition, as well as a standalone introduction to one of the most secretive museums in London’s history.
The Crime Museum Uncovered: Inside Scotland Yard’s Special Collection, by Jackie Kiely and Julia Hoffbrand, is on sale from 9 October 2015, at the price of £12.99. It is published by IB Tauris.