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The Maul and the Pear Tree : The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 by P. D. James

The Maul and the Pear Tree : The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811


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Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 9 December 2010.

P. D. James and T. A. Critchley piece together the evidence of an early 19th century murder case in this fascinating book.

If you like P. D. James you might also like to read books by Anthony Horowitz, Regina Jeffers and Sally Beauman.


The Maul and the Pear Tree : The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 by P. D. James

In 1811, John Williams was buried with a stake in his heart. Was he the notorious East End killer or his eighth victim in the bizarre and shocking Ratcliffe Highway Murders? In this vivid and gripping reconstruction P. D. James and T. A. Critchley draw on public records, newspaper clippings and hitherto unpublished sources, expertly sifting the evidence to shed new light on this infamous Wapping mystery.


'James and Critchley evoke the horror of a dark, wintry London where ill-prepared authorities struggle to bring a major murder case to its conclusion.' Crime Times

'A model demonstration of how to assess fragmentary and often tantalising evidence ... It makes an enthralling story.' New York Times

About the Author

P. D. James

P. D. James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London. She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.

P. D. James died in November 2014.

Photograph © Ulla Montan

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Book Info

Publication date

4th November 2010


P. D. James

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Faber and Faber


400 pages



True crime



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