Recently I was in touch with crime author Monica Weller after reading an article about her in the national press about the project she had undertaken, writing a book about a 50 year old still unsolved murder. The case itself is not widely known in the annals of unsolved British crimes, it is not a cause celebre such as the Wallace case of the 1930’s, or the Hammersmith Nudes murders of the 1960’s. It is a brutal murder of a middle aged and widely respected general practitioner, Dr Helen Davidson, in woodland near her Buckinghamshire home in late 1966. The article caught my eye as Dr Davidson was battered to death and mutilated whilst out walking her dog, and it is a case that I was aware of and had given consideration to (and ultimately discounted) as being possibly connected with the series of Dog walker killings covered in the articles featured on TTCE a few months back. Nevertheless, it caught my interest and as any book about a relatively unknown UK murder will do this, I contacted Monica via Twitter and asked if I could have a copy for reading and review purposes. I found her very approachable and she readily agreed to this, with a copy being sent to me extremely promptly.
“Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson” tells the story of the brutal murder of General Practitioner Dr Helen Davidson, on 09 November 1966 whilst she was out walking her dog in Hodgemoor Woods, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. It was a very brutal and seemingly motiveless crime, and one that as mentioned above remains unsolved to date. As it is an obscure historical case, and not readily a crime that comes to the front of an enthusiasts mind, I found it refreshing to pick up a book the subject of which piques your interest, yet tells a story the reader will ultimately be unfamiliar with. It is never the intention of TTCE to give away the entire plot points and structure of a book within the review; nor is it the intention to give anything but a fair and unbiased review. The former will not occur here, whilst the latter will.
Monica has, at what must be great personal monetary and time consuming expense, thoroughly researched all angles of what is an obscure case, and it shows in the wealth of detail featured in the book. I have to admit that I was very impressed with the amount of research that has gone into writing “Injured Parties”, and to me, I can think of only a handful of books that are equalled in the amount of detail concerning the subject (true crime books written by Gordon Burn spring to mind). This extends to two things that always impress me with a true crime book (and ensure them a permanent place in my extensive library); a varied range of photographs concerning aspects, places, and people mentioned in the book; and an excellent and assorted Appendix containing reproductions of press cuttings concerning aspects mentioned within, letters to and from the author to persons mentioned within the text, and what impressed me most, a reproduced pathologists report in full. I cannot fault any of this at all, it is an excellent addition.
If I had to pick anything negative concerning the book, it is that in the opinion of TTCE that this is a book that may reach its widest audience with a reader who lives in the locality of the places mentioned within. I know for myself reading about a subject set in a place that I can visualise and know personally will always hold great appeal, and I can imagine this occurring with “Injured Parties”, because of the obscurity of the subject. It is hard to imagine a crime reader who lives in Los Angeles, for example, savouring detail upon detail of a historical murder in rural Buckinghamshire. I can also imagine some readers finding parts of the book repetitive and long winded (for example the chapter concerning Helen Davidson’s early life), but equally can imagine those who savour detail -such as myself – commending this. Yet this is only TTCE’s opinion, and one that I would hope to see proved wrong by “Hidden Parties” becoming as much as a success as the hard work that has clearly been put into writing it deserves.
It is for the reader themselves to make up their own mind as to the validity of the theories presented within “Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson” – I enjoyed it and respect and commend the research, although perhaps the natural investigative nature within me would still need more convincing to agree with what the title denotes. Nevertheless, as with everything opinions differ from reader to reader, and TTCE recommends the best way is to reserve judgement before reading this well- researched book. It will stay on my shelf for sure.
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The True Crime Enthusiast