It is 1941. While the 'war of chaos' rages in the skies above London, an unending fight against violence, murder and the criminal underworld continues on the streets below. One ordinary day, in an ordinary courtroom, forensic pathologist Dr Keith Simpson asks a keen young journalist to be his secretary. Although the 'horrors of secretarial work' don't appeal to Molly Lefebure, she's intrigued to find out exactly what goes on behind a mortuary door.
Capable and curious, 'Miss Molly' quickly becomes indispensible to Dr Simpson as he meticulously pursues the truth. Accompanying him from sombre morgues to London's most gruesome crime scenes, Molly observes and assists as he uncovers the dark secrets that all murder victims keep. With a sharp sense of humour and a rebellious spirit, Molly tells her own remarkable true story here with warmth and wit, painting a vivid portrait of wartime London.
©1955 Molly Lefebure (P)2013 Isis Publishing Ltd
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"Murder, war, trials and sardine sandwiches"
In 1941, Molly Lefebure was a newspaper reporter. While following a case at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court, she was offered a secretarial job by renowned pathologist Dr (Cedric) Keith Simpson (who she then refers to affectionately as CKS throughout the rest of the book). As she wanted to be a writer, Molly eventually decided to accept the offer as she felt it would provide good experience and knowledge.
So, while World War 2 raged on and London was living through the Blitz, Molly was travelling across London and much of the south east visiting murder scenes, helping Simpson examine bodies and going to trials.
Molly walked an average 12 miles a day, worked from 8.30am to 10.30pm, seven days a week and was paid a starting salary of £1 a week. She also had to deal with people’s perceptions of her new role. There is a fabulous passage about the difference between the reactions between male and female friends, when they are alone, or in mixed company.
Peppered amongst the quite vivd descriptions of murders and trials, there is a lot of talk of lunch, tea and sardine sandwiches. The first night after she’d started the role, her landlady served her up a pork chop, and Molly reflected that if she didn’t eat it then, she would be likely to have turned vegetarian. So she made sure she ate it!
There was so much to love about this book – not just the interesting (sometimes high profile) cases, but insight into the judicial system (murderers were still hung at this time) and a matter-of-fact account of every day life living during the war (on 23rd August 1944, Molly would have loved to have been celebrating the liberation of Paris, but found herself eating sardine sandwiches and catching a train to Ashford together with armies of families of hop-pickers – including all their belongings, screaming children and cats & dogs!).
Molly gave up the job when she became engaged and originally this book was published in 1
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, both audibly and hard copy. I would recommend it to anyone interested in crime and forensics
"A refreshing woman's view of WW2 Britain"
I have read so many books, biographies and memoires by men from war time Britain and most if not all leave you wondering what about the women... Molly Lefebure has broken the mould. Her eloquence and playful nature keeps you gripped throughout, never a dull moment and always cheerful. A remarkable insight into a life less ordinary... I have listened and re listened over and again, totally addicted and so sad Molly published so few titles before she departed yet so happy I have had the chance to indulge in those that she did.
"Fascinating and slightly creepy"
The narrator takes a job as secretary to a pathologist during WW2 and her subsequent memoir becomes a really interesting piece of social history. It's fascinating to hear about the long hours the pathologists (and the police) had to work and the awful conditions they worked in. The descriptions of the tragic deaths of the people - who became the corpses they worked on - are very moving. Molly Lefebure has no compassion at all for the murderers, although some of them came from dreadful backgrounds and led hopeless lives, culminating in a squalid death; I think this shows her privileged position in society, but I did find it upsetting.
It's not the kind of thing I can listen to without breaks and it's also too creepy to listen to when you're on your own at night...
The narration is very good indeed, just the right kind of voice.
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