Monday 27 October 2014

Happy Like Murderers - Gordon Brown

Title: Happy Like Murderers
Author: Gordon Brown
Genre: True Crime
Published: 1998
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

As part of the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge I was required to read something from the true crime genre and the book I picked was “Happy Like Murderers” by Gordon Burn. This book details the abuse and murders carried out by Rose and Fred West to numerous children and young people across several decades at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester and various other locations around Gloucestershire.

I vividly remember the ghastly discoveries at Cromwell Street when they occurred and whilst I knew a fair bit about the murders this book has highlighted other elements of the complete story. In particular I was really shocked and horrified to discover what the Wests’ children went through and as a parent myself I really struggled to understand how someone could do the things that they did to their children.

It really is a hard book to read due to the vast amount of unsettling events that are recorded and detailed. It highlights in grim detail how vile humans can be and I found myself having to put the book down at multiple occasions. These self-imposed pauses and the vast amount of information that is packed into the pages meant that this wasn’t a quick read that I could pick up and finish in just a couple of days.

Whilst the book does a good job in detailing a lot of what actually happened, I do feel that the writing itself was rather disappointing. The whole thing feels very disorganised as the narrative constantly jumps backwards and forwards in time. I have read some commentary that this was Burns’ attempt at trying to capture Fred West's circular thought and speech patterns but for personally I just found it irritating. Then there was Burns’ tendency to repeat the same facts multiple times which just increased the irritation factor.

Overall this is without doubt one of the most disturbing books I have ever read and the knowledge that what I was reading about actually happened really enhances the horror of it all. The writing itself did let the book down due to the non-linear narrative and constant repetition of facts but either way Burns has managed to capture the grim truth in a rather vivid way. I really can’t recommend this book for casual readers, if you have an interest in true crime novels then you may want to give it a go but be prepared for some quite sickening moments.


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