Murder at Wrotham Hill

Published by Quercus on 27th September 2012

Before dawn on 31 October 1946, less than a year after the slaughter of World War Two. On a bleak roadside in Kent, a lone woman looks to hitch a lift to London. A lorry driver stops. The encounter ends in murder.

The victim, Dagmar Petrzywalski, is a gentle, eccentric, spinster who has sought protection in the peace of the countryside after her London home is bombed. She is the embodiment of Austerity Britain’s self-sacrifice and thrift. Her murderer, Harold Hagger, is its opposite. His life is a litany of petty crimes, deceived wives, sloughed-off identities and army desertions. With their characters so indelibly marked, the tragic outcome of their meeting seems determined by fate.

In Murder at Wrotham Hill Diana Souhami teases out the significance of this crime, and shows that even after the killing of twenty million people in global conflict, one death still has much to tell us. In doing so she paints a gripping portrait of 1940s Britain that raises questions about murder, punishment and destiny.

With character that include England’s first celebrity policeman, Fabian of the Yard; the celebrated forensic scientist, Keith Simpson; and history’s most famous and dedicated hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, this is a captivating, provocative and deeply moving book by one of our most acclaimed writers.