Monday 24 June 2013

Murder on the Home Front

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers and Mysteries in the Blitz describes Molly Lefebure's work as secretary to a forensic pathologist during the war and after

Molly, a nice middle-class girl, loved her work in the morgues of London and southern England. It took her to places she would never otherwise have been able to visit.

Sometimes she travelled to the “amazing no man’s land of the suburbs”, returning with “relief, to stewed fruit and junket”. If they were in a hurry, “sausage rolls” were “gobbled”. But if they were lucky, they got “sausage toad-in-the-hole” followed by “chocolate mould”. (This is a kind of English cuisine few are keen to revive.)

Sex was described in odd terms: “Presently he began to suspect intimacy between them and on the Sunday before the murder he accused them of this. Both denied any such thing. Rosina’s mother said they were ‘not playing the game’. Her father told them ‘to keep the courtship clean’.”

She thought the 30s were “The decade of unemployment, chips on shoulders and sloppy thinking. Religious conviction waned, the old values declined.”

When visiting crime scenes, she notices the “eau-de-nil d├ęcor”, “a pair of uninspiring china figures” on the mantelpiece, and “rexine” furniture. (It’s “an artificial leather leathercloth fabric”, according to its manufacturers.)

She is curious to see the flat of a prostitute, and notes the cold, dirt and discomfort of the "model dwellings" where the poor live - all with grandiose names like "Briar Rose Court".


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