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Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz
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Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  691 ratings  ·  133 reviews
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
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1955)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  691 ratings  ·  133 reviews


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❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀
Although the murders in this book are somewhat interesting, if thinly and inexpertly told, the author's attitude is repellent. Molly Lefebure, a journalist, has made no attempt to cultivate detachment or check her own prejudices. We find here that the only female murder victim the author felt wasn't to blame for her own death was a thirteen year old girl of whom the author says "....best soon forgotten". A young man who murdered a girl by stabbing her 34 times because he if he couldn't have her ...more
Jeanette
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is different. Very. For one thing it is written "of its era" completely. No sensibilities or censures of any detail that are not from the 1940-1945 era. And those are extremely different "eyes" than any of the WWII fiction or non-fiction that I have read in the last two decades. Most of those latter seem to screen though quite different lens of sensibilities and cultural mores. Modern to revised for PC police and other strictures. Not here.

Molly is telling her own tale of her own
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Katherine Addison
Molly Lefebure was a remarkable woman. I just wish she'd let it show.

I'm giving Murder on the Home Front four stars for its value as a primary source about living in London during World War II. Lefebure captures vividly what it felt like to go through the Blitz, and about the sheer hell of carrying on with daily life in a city that was being destroyed around your ears. She's an excellent, engaging writer with occasional startlingly poetic turns of phrase.

But her persona. Oh dear god I wanted to
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Sarah-Hope
Feb 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I suspect that a year or so from now, the latest British import on PBS will be Murder on the Home Front, a BBC series based on the book Im reviewing. The book, a memoir, recounts the experiences of Molly Lefebure, who worked as a secretary to a medical examiner during WWII. From a historical perspective, the material is fascinatingthough I would welcome even more about the blitz and day-to-day life in London during this time. The forensic cases are interesting, and I was impressed to see how ...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
Back in the early 60s I started to become an avid reader - mainly of non-fiction. All the paperbacks I picked up tended to be autobiographical stories about the adventures of doctors in Africa combatting local superstitions, or of adventurers and their escapades in the Spanish Civil War or the Second World War. Occasionally they would be the reminiscences of Police Detectives narrating a list of crimes or counter-espionage agents... and so on. There was a pattern to all these books; a series of ...more
Angela
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I was expecting something different based on the description on the back cover. It details and document various murders that occurred but there isn't much mystery to them. The forensics of the autopsies did not seem to solve the cases so it turns into a bit of a dry read. From the title I thought there would be some discussion about murder rates during the time period, i.e. did people take advantage of the war and try to get away with murder. I did not dislike the book it was just not what I ...more
Deanne
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
Very interesting take of what life was like working in the forensic world during the blitz. The book was actually written in the 1950's, but based on Lefebure's own experiences working alongside Dr Simpson, one of the more famous pathologists, up there with Bernard Spilsbury.
Saw the ITV show by the same name, which was disappointing, Dr Simpson becomes a fictional character, and Molly turns into an airhead.
Sarah
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, forensic
Overall I enjoyed the book but there were some obvious prejudices that dated the book. Considering how many murders she witnessed, it was disconcerting that she kept mentioning how abnormal murders looked. Most of the murderers I see in the newspaper look just like you and me. Also some of her opinions about people and behavior reflect are no longer currently thought (or at least if thought are not mentioned).
Shelby Brown
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Murder on the Home Front is a memoir by Molly Lefebure, secretary to forensic pathologist Keith Simpson in London during WWII. I have mixed feelings about this book. While I found it enjoyable, and the stories interesting, it was very off putting to read in places because of the narrator. Leferbure was a product of her time, and this book was written in the 50s, but even with that in mind it was still disconcerting to hear such misogyny and victim blaming attitudes calmly being spouted. That ...more
Derek Eidick
Jul 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was boring. I did not know what was happening half the time, she didnt talk about interesting cases or really the war and name dropped random people so much you couldnt follow what was happening and honestly it did not help the story at all. Shes also kind of a bad person. I thought this was going to be really interesting but it was not ...more
Thebruce1314
This didnt turn out to be quite what I expected. The cover compares it to Call the Midwife, but I disagree. Lefebure writes of her own experiences as secretary to a forensic pathologist, and leaves out nonsense of the gory details. But rather than being a fascinating account, I found it kind of disturbing to read of the levity with which she treated her job. I suppose you would need to have a sense of humour to deal with the horrible things she saw, so perhaps Im being too harsh. In any case, I ...more
Fishface
This is that rarest of TC books -- upbeat and remarkably lighthearted, yet never disrepectful to the seriousness of the subject matter. The author was a harried young journalist during WWII who unexpectedly found herself working as a secretary for up-and-coming British pathologist Keith Simpson, whose own memoir you really ought to read as well. Lefebure's book really captures the feeling of racing breathlessly from death scene to death scene at all hours of the day and night, fitted in around ...more
Damaskcat
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author was secretary to the Home Office pathologist, Keith Simpson during World War II and this books is about her fascinating job. She would be typing up Dr Simpsons post mortem reports while he was dissecting the corpse. Fortunately the author was never squeamish and she found the work very interesting. She would be whisked off at a moments notice here there and everywhere to take notes while her boss examined a murder victim in situ. She climbed over barbed wire fences and stumbled ...more
Amy
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, 2014
I've had this book on my radar since I watched the tv series last year and grabbed it when I saw it as part of a 3 books for £5 offer. A really enlightening and enjoyable read based on Molly Lefebure's experiences in a London mortuary during world war 2. With all the drama over on the continent it's easy to forget that life carried on in Britain, murder was still a daily occurs and crimes needed to be solved. Lefebure is witty and charismatic relating her 5 years as secretary to Dr Simpson, a ...more
Kelly Furniss
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Molly Lefebure becomes secretary to Keith Simpson forensic pathologist during the second World War in London.
This book is her memoir of post mortem's, crime and hospital and prison cases as she followed Simpson around on his duties.
The writing is so descriptive of the situations and environments faced that you can visualise and sense them with ease.
It can be very gruesome in parts but then humorous also.
A fascinating read for those interested in this period.
Judy
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Turned out better than I thought it would. This is a true story of Molly Lefebvre and how she learned the world of criminal forensics during WWII in London. She was asked by Dr. Keith Simpson to be his secretary and over the objections of friends and family, she went to work for him. Each chapter is its own story and the book is easy to read. I was amazed at how many of the crimes were solved using similar techniques that are used today.
Luce Cronin
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What a surprise !! I would never have guessed that I would discover an author with such a beautiful writing style. Her descriptions of people, places, especially London, and her understanding of deeply felt emotions - these all combine to deliver a very poignant kind of autobiography. I will certainly hunt for her novels and read those. Such an unknown author here, in Canada, and such a bonus for me to have found her.
Penny
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I can see why this has been ear-marked as a new ITV series although I can't see the subject matter giving Downton Abbey a run for its money.
Miss L clearly considered her boss, the pathologist Dr Keith Simpson, as a complete hero.
Enjoyable read although very dated in places, and overuse of the word 'sordid'! I wished she had gone into more detail about the 'sordid' things - they sounded very interesting........
Hazel Roberts
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
This is written in an easy to read manner and is laced not with just murder,mayhem and blood but with a droll sense of humour. She tells not just how thw sights she sees at murder scenes and in the morgue but also how the continuing years of war affected her in particular and the rest of the country . I read this very quickly and plan to re-read Forty years of Murder which is Professor Keith Simpson's autobiography
Karoline
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting premise, but ruined by the off putting narrator Molly Lefebure. A woman not so "ahead of her times" as her job might suggest, she expresses out of date views on gender roles, favouritism for the death penalty and an unsympathetic attitude towards murder victims; i.e.: "she was well accustomed to intercourse" speaking of a 15 year old.
Jamie Z
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book. Interesting glimpse into a different era!
Mandy Burkhart
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I actually quite liked this book. Very Agent Carter-esque. I loved the authors tone. ...more
Molly
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
I thought it would have more of a narrative rather than each chapter being a different experience. So, did not finish.
Lindsay Boitnott
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Molly Lefebure is working as a journalist when she is approached by famous pathologist C Keith Simpson in a courtroom. He needs assistance and hopes she is willing to be his secretary. Molly has no intention of being stuck behind a desk taking notes but she cant say no to the chance of working in the mortuary. Murder on the Home Front is Mollys account of her years working as CKS secretary during World War II.

First, my negative comments. It took me over five months to finish Murder on the Home
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Elise
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm glad I didn't read the other reviews of this book before I read it because they would have soured me on it. As it was, though, I thought the book was charming in its own quirky and entirely British way. Is it dated? Absolutely. But, it was also an extremely fascinating first hand account of life in London during the blitz, and more interestingly, behind the scenes of the nascent pathology industry that kept humming during the war years.

Miss Molly was a product of her time and her anecdotes
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Melinda
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Molly's experiences as a pathologist's secretary during World Ward II shined such an interesting light on an obscure side of London. I was greatly surprised by the high number of suicides, murders and other questionable deaths at which Molly was present at the post mortems. Her often light way of describing such incidents was somewhat humorous, as was her ability to remain more or less unfazed by the gruesome images she encountered. There really were some intriguing cases. I equally liked how ...more
Kaarin
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book overall. It was written in the 1950s and so some of her attitudes about certain topics feel "old-fashioned"--in particular, her lack of softness for the murderers. I don't count this as a problem--just an interesting shift in treatment of topics in literature/media. Nowadays I feel murderers are portrayed with much more complexity and, in some cases, even a degree of sympathy. You will not find that here.
I listened to this book and the reader does a good job
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Beth Thommesen
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book took me longer to read than I thought it would. It wasn't badly written, and the firsthand account of a woman's work as secretary to a leading London pathologist was certainly an interesting subject, especially to someone who is interested in true crime (aren't we all these days?). However, I kept finding myself being turned off by the way Lefebure talked about many of the people involved in her experiences, maligning them for being poor and stupid and shabby, remarking on the lives of ...more
Megan
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lee
und this on the whole interesting and informative. It looses a star because I found some of the language, especially regarding woman, patronising and sexist. I realise though that this was acceptable in the 30's and 40's. Ms Lefebure herself had a tendency to be overly critical and judgemental of a certain type/class of woman. That a side the book contains many, many crimes/murders which had me Googling to find out more about them.

I have read the biographies of both Simpson and Spillsbury and
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Molly Lefebure was born in Hackney on 6 October 1919 into a family descended from prominent arms manufacturers in 18th-century Paris. Her father, Charles Lefebure (OBE 1941 Birthday Honours), was a senior civil servant who worked with Sir William Beveridge on the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS), applying some of the revolutionary ideas of Robespierre, the Parisian Lefebures ...more

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