• Richard James

Stranger Than Fiction

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

I can't believe I'd never heard of the Whitehall Murder. Just as I'd finished writing The Head In The Ice, I was told the story of a macabre discovery that was eerily familiar. The Head In The Ice opens with the discovery of a woman's severed head in the icy waters of the River Thames directly opposite the Victoria Embankment and the site of the Scotland Yard building (left). A little later in the story, a torso turns up in Chelsea. Bit by bit, Inspector Bowman establishes her identity and, eventually, that of her killer. Turns out that, occasionally, Life really does imitate Art.

In 1888, just as building work on the 'new' Scotland Yard building was getting underway, the torso of a woman was found discarded in a parcel amongst the foundations. It seemed to match body parts discovered previously in London; a right arm and shoulder found on the muddy shore of the Thames at Pimlico, a leg discovered at the construction site. No head was ever found and the killer never apprehended. The incident has featured in many books and TV series over the years, the wonder being that I had never heard of it before. Or perhaps it was a half-remembered story that inspired me, unwittingly, to write The Head In The Ice? Either way, I'm glad to say that my book follows a different story, and Inspector Bowman is rather more successful in his attempts to catch the killer.

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