REVIEW: John Christie of Rillington Place (2021)

A book by Dr Jonathan Oates

In my honest opinion, Pen & Sword is at it’s best with their selection of true crime books. I appreciate them a lot because most authors have a tendency to tread the same roads that have been used for decades, whereas Pen & Sword like to go at these topics from fresh perspectives. I, truthfully, am not too knowledgeable about this case, but I am aware that it’s a fairly significant case in UK history spanning film and TV adaptations due to it’s “popularity” or infamy, rather. Whenever something like that starts to happen, you can guarantee that the truth in the history can start to veer into mythology as with any noteworthy American serial killer. In this book, Dr. Jonathan Oates tries to strip away the media circus that erupted due to Christie’s arrest and the fascination the media had with the legal procedures themselves. He tries to look at the man himself, giving a nuanced, well-researched biography on a man that had many opportunities to get on the right path, but let his dark past lead him astray.

“Sixty years ago, the discovery of bodies at 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill, London, led to one of the most sensational, shocking and controversial serial murder cases in British criminal history – the case of John Christie. Much has been written about the Christie killings and the fate of Timothy Evans who was executed for murders Christie later confessed to – the story still provokes strong feeling and speculation.

But most of the books on the case have been compiled without the benefit of all the sources that are open to researchers, and they tend to focus on Evans in an attempt to clear him of guilt. And many simply repeat what has been said before. Accounts neglect Christie’s early life and crimes and the lives of his victims, and even witness statements about the Christies have been overlooked. So a painstaking, scholarly reassessment of the evidence – and of Christie’s life – is overdue, and that is what Jonathan Oates provides in this gripping biography of a serial killer.”

John Christie was an unfortunate individual. It seemed that most of what drove him to his murderous tendencies started in his youth. The author talks about his possible Oedipus complex, the fact that he loved his mother and hated his father to such a degree it warped his ability to have relationships with women. When he was “of age” to have relationships with girls, it seemed that he was singled out as being slow and being “less endowed” than other boys by a girl he liked, something that was spread around school – it seems this perhaps led to his feelings against women and his need to be with the prostitutes that he would eventually start killing. It’s sad how “messed up” someone can become when their minds are so malleable and weak as that of an adolescent, and it seems Christie was definitely not able to handle a normal life.

All-in-all, I liked this book despite not knowing much about this case. The author does a good job of trying to figure out exactly why Christie did what he did, and how he was able to live with himself when an innocent man was hanged for something he did. A lifelong habitual liar and coward, Christie tried to manipulate others until the very end, and it eventually cost him his life.

If you would be interested in a copy of this book, please click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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