Handsome Brute by Sean O'Connor
9781471101342 Simon and Schuster
Handsome Brute explores the facts of a once-renowned, now little-remembered British murder case, the killings of the charming, but deadly ex-RAF playboy Neville Heath. Since the 1940s, Heath has generally been dismissed as a sadistic sex-killer - the preserve of sensational Murder Anthologies - and little else. But the story behind the tabloid headlines reveals itself to be complex and ambiguous, provoking unsettling questions that echo across the decades to the present day.
For the first time, with access to previously restricted files from the Home Office and Metropolitan Police, this book explores the complex motivations behind the murders through the prism of the immediate post-war period. Against the backdrop of a society in flux, a culture at a moment of change, how much is Heath's case symptomatic, or indeed, emblematic of the age he lived in? Handsome Brute is both an examination of the age of austerity, and a real-life thriller as shocking and provocative as American Psycho or The Killer Inside Me, exploring the perspectives of the women in Heath's life - his wife, his mother, his lovers - and his victims. This collage of experiences from the women who knew him intimately probes the schism at the heart of his fascinating, chilling personality.