Death in the Air: A True Story of a Serial Killer, The Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City is, just as the title says, a non-fiction account of a horrific environmental disaster and the criminal activities of one man that captivated a nation.
This book is history and journalism at their finest. Incredibly researched and beautifully written, Death in the Air gives narrative to a story of death, hardship and politics that may otherwise be too convoluted to tell.
Kate Winkler Dawson explores the devastation the Second World War brought to England, and the growing environmental problems affecting the country after it was over.
In the 1950s, it was hard to convince anyone that human actions had an impact on the environment, but in the aftermath of the devastating smog of 1952 that killed 12,000 people, a few brave individuals started to fight for policy change. It was the beginning of a fight that is still going on today and has become even more dire.
I've already read reviews of this book comparing it to Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, and I can definitely understand why those comparisons have been drawn. Where Dawson writes about the London smog, Larson writes about the build up to the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, and where Dawson writes about serial killer Reginald Christie, Larson tells the story of murderer H.H. Holmes.
While there are many parallels between the two books, Dawson's book is original and unique, and offers historical insight into an important event that hasn't been well covered. Death in the Air is fascinating in its own right, and I would press back against anyone who compares the two books too closely.
That being said, if you loved Devil in the White City like I did, Death in the Air will be a welcome and pleasant read for you. It is suspenseful, riveting, and so rich with history and detail that it will make you wish you could have experienced 1950s London. And it's a great read for true crime lovers everywhere.
This book reminded me why I spent four years studying history and politics. I love novels and fiction, but there is something so satisfying and amazing about a true story - especially one that is still so relevant today.