Book review: Underworld London, By Catherine Arnold


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The Independent Culture

Arnold's murky tour starts with "the biggest robbery for 600 years" (the theft in 1303 of booty worth £20 million in today's money), with punishment, such as the peine forte et dure or pressing (400lbs over 30 mins) inflicted on highwayman William Spiggot in 1721, getting more coverage than crime.

Dark humour provides welcome relief. Getaway driver Lillian Goldstein drew praise from Inspector Nutty Sharpe in 1921: "She could whiz that tourer with the skill of an artist."

After doing in Jack "the Hat" McVitie, Reggie Kray explained his bandaged hand: "Gardenin'."