A memoir of interesting times

Molly Lefebure’s book Murder on the Home Front is a memoir of her years working as the secretary to Br Keith Simpson, one of the first forensic pathologists. In fact, Molly is more of an assistant than a secretary in that she accompanies her boss to crime scenes, collects evidence and plays a part in the investigations. The years in which Molly worked for Dr Simpson are also those of WW2 so in addition to the difficulties of their investigations they were also working in chaotic conditions.

The murders that Dr Simpson investigates take place despite the war and the Blitz raging around the inhabitants of London and the victims tend to be those on the edges of society who are more vulnerable such as women working in the sex industry or those without firm relationships and family ties. Molly is a woman of her time so her attitude to some of the victims of crimes can be a little judgemental and there is occasionally a feeling that they had lived in such a way as to invite murder – this is only an occasional feeling and didn’t damage my enjoyment of the book.

Molly visited hospitals, mortuaries, coroners’ courts, police stations and the homes of victims. She seemed to take her typewriter with her and type up reports in interesting locations. A lot of the time her travel is made more difficult by the war and she seems not to have been able to get something to eat everywhere she went. Nevertheless you can tell that Molly loved this job and enjoys sharing some of it with you.

The book is told in an informal, almost chatty, style as Molly talks about some of the cases in which she was involved. The book highlights that most of the murders are easily solved and are committed for the most banal of reasons. Molly draws no great conclusions from her experiences but we get a glimpse into the life of a working woman in a field dominated by men and at a time when nothing is straightforward.

I enjoyed Molly’s tales of her life and work as she is a pleasant companion with whom to spend some time.

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