Everyone has heard of Jack the Ripper, while books by Charles Dickens such as Oliver Twist lift the veil of Victorian propriety to expose the netherworld of criminality at its seamy worst – but then, that was 19th century London.
Bloody Scotland, a new book by Malcolm Archibald, amply proves that the Whitechapel underworld had nothing to teach their Scots counterparts when it came to murder most foul, not to mention child cruelty, riots, bank robberies and other heinous crimes.
The genteel facade of Victorian Edinburgh concealed a morass of vice and venality (many know about Burke and Hare, the grave robbers, but they were just two of the better-known murderous miscreants).
Glasgow was a cesspit of violence and depravity, while in the Highlands excisemen trying - with little success - to root out illegal distilling risked their lives against crofters who would think nothing of beating intruders half to death, after first treating them to a volley of musket fire.
Even couthy Dundee had its desperados, as revealed by the tale of a tenant who embarked on an insane spree of murder with a pistol.
It was a rough and violent age, in which the values of Presbyterian propriety and the growth of the Temperance movement stood in stark contrast to rampant crime and vie of every kind.
The deeds of the mad, bad and plain evil, from the Borders to the northern isles, are compellingly told in this fascinating anthology of deeds from the nation’s historic dark side.
Wild men, savage women, poisoners, stabbers and muggers – from small coastal villages to the mean streets of old Dundee, Scotland in Victoria’s day could be a deeply dangerous place to be.
This is the latest volume in what really amounts to a series from Malcolm Archibald, who achieved a Masters |Ddegree in urban and cultural history as a mature student at Dundee University three years ago.
His dissertation was about the impact of urban improvement on the crime rates in Dundee, and it inspired a book - A Sink of Atrocity, which chronicles crime and punishment in Victorian Dundee.
The award-winning author tells it the way it was, in terse, concise but evocative prose,, all adding up to a page-turning classic of its kind.
To win a copy of Bloody Scotland, answer the following simple question: Who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories?
Complete the entry form provided and return it to: Bloody Scotland Competition, Cumbernauld News/Kilsyth Chronicle, 10-12 Tay Walk, Cumbernauld G76 1BU. Closing date is Tuesday, September 16.