Blood on the Page

Blood on the Page What a disappointment this book is Harding is an excellent investigative journalist but the problem here is that the trial with which he s concerned was held in secret and under a gagging order which forbids anyone to even speculate why that was so As Harding himself says, any partial alternative view is speculation A decade since the killing of Allan Chappelow, little is certain Given that the usual reason for this kind of order is the protection of national security, there must be far to the story than Harding can even speculate about since nothing in the current story has anything much to do with national politics, though there are intimations that the accused was an informant to the security services Harding does make some guesses about Chappelow s personal life but they re unsurprising, and don t really fit with the details of the murder Even that, though, is less full that I expected for example, there is talk of burns which don t seem to fit with the scenario that Harding tentatively outlines but we re not told enough to even judge that.That there was going on than came out in the public trial seems almost certain but, through no fault of his own, Harding cannot either investigate or write about it Very frustrating. This should have been a fascinating look at the trial of a Chinese man for the brutal murder of an 86 year old man in Hamsptead in 2006, but for some reason, it just didn t quite grab me I liked the structure of the narrative, following chronologically and featuring relevant in depth looks at the background of the two men, Wang Yam and Allan Chapelow and I also liked the inclusion of the author s case notes in between the chapters Unfortunately, I think that the book suffers from the fact that much of the information brought up during the trial cannot be included or even speculated about, due to certain portions of the trial being conducted in secret As a result, the book doesn t really introduce any new theories or evidence and is therefore only a re telling of the process followed I suspect that the author was frustrated by his inability to dig further and perhaps he should have waited until the removal of the gag order before publishing Overall, this is a well researched book but it is a little bit dull.I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 2.5 stars The murder case at the centre of this book is only moderately interesting the state of the house and the circumstances in which Allan was found being the draw , and the rest of the book not nearly as interesting as it could have been There are too many unanswered questions due to Harding not being allowed to even speculate on why the trial was held in secret and so it feels somewhat unsatisfying The detailed accounts of police procedure and paperwork felt like filler or substitute for what really needed to be said, though no doubt important questions on the legal system were raised Wang Yam is clearly an inveterate liar and fraudster, doing his defense no favours and possibly allowing the Met to have claimed they got their man while leaving the real killer to walk free. The murder of Allan Chapellow is arguably one of the strangest and most compelling cases in recent British legal history An elderly and reclusive man, Chappelow lived in a dilapidated house in Hampstead, on a street where properties sell for millions A writer, he had penned biographies of George Bernard Shaw, though he hadn t produced much in his later years Sadly, he was to meet a violent end, bludgeoned to death in his house, his body dripped in candle wax and buried under a heap of his own manuscripts The man convicted of the murder, Wang Yam, is a Chinese immigrant who claims to be a descendent of Ren Bishi, a leading member of the Chinese Communist Party at the time of Mao Indeed, the man Wang Yam claims is his grandfather was Mao s right hand man But what really sets this case apart, is that a section of the trial was heard in camera, behind closed doors, on the grounds of national security Not only is this the first murder trial in UK history to be held partly in secret on the grounds of national security, but a remarkable court order is in place that prevents the media, not just from reporting why this might be, but from speculating as to the reasons behind it.Harding s interest in the story stems from the fact that he grew up on the street and knew the victim as the odd character who lived a few doors from him An author and journalist, Harding has written for national newspapers and has published a number of titles on recent German history I haven t read any of his previous work myself, but they were well received This is important because Blood on the Page has come in for some criticism.In Blood on the Page, Harding details the murder, delves into Allan Chappelow s life and that of Wang Yam, and follows the investigation to trial and eventual conviction He details the various appeals that Wang Yam and his lawyers have mounted and tells us how he has acclimatised to prison life In all of this he does a good job and he s certainly talented as both a writer and biographer Where this book falls down somewhat is in the injection of his own voice into the narrative, for throughout, Harding s views and opinions come off the page to an unusual degree.Wang Yam was convicted of Allan Chapellow s murder on the strength of purely circumstantial evidence There was no forensic evidence linking him to the crime scene There was however compelling evidence CCTV images for example of him using Allan s credit cards and accessing his bank accounts in the days after his death Wang Yam claims that this was because he had fallen in with Chinese gangsters who had provided these to him and that he did not murder Allan The problem with this however is that Wang Yam quickly proved himself to be a fantasist, at least he seems to have a difficult relationship with the truth When questioned by the police, and later in court, he couldn t identify the gangsters he was supposedly in hoc to In fact, his whole life s history appears to be uncertain, it s not even clear that he s telling the truth about being related to Ren Bishi That said, there is some evidence that he might be telling the truth about the murder of Allan Chapellow, or at least that we ought to pause before declaring him guilty Apart from the fact that there was no forensics to tie him to the scene, cigarette butts littered the room that Allan s body was found, the DNA from which matched neither Allen nor Wang Yam A neighbour came forward to say that weeks after Wang Yam was jailed, he was threatened with a knife by a man on his doorstep rifling through his mail While a witness gave evidence at his appeal that he had met a man matching Allan s description, using the same name, cruising Hampstead Heath for sex Might Allen have been murdered by someone else, perhaps someone he brought back from the Heath If so, Wang Yam is only guilty of theft and fraud.There are certainly questions to answer in this case and looming over it all is the national security concerns, whatever they might be, which led the trial to be heard, in part, in secrecy We are likely never to know what these were, what they relate to, or how this knowledge might alter our understanding of the case Some reviews have said this absence makes the author s task impossible and that Blood on the Page suffers as a result I think that s unfair and that Harding has produced a compelling and readable account of the case regardless.More problematic to my mind is his seeming determination to believe Wang Yam s account Again, other reviewers have accused Harding of naivet , even gullibility While this might be a little harsh, he does seem to be blind to Wang Yam s deeply flawed character To Harding s great credit he recounts Wang Yam s erraticism faithfully For example, he tells us Wang Yam s lawyers don t believe much of what he said, while when he contacted his supposed cousin, she told him that Wang Yam was not related to her But despite this, he presses on with his faith in his subject regardless This is most apparent in these odd sections of the book at the end of each chapter, which he titles case notes where he outlines his thoughts as his investigations unfold These are totally superfluous to the text as a whole and serve nothing than to give the impression Harding s a bit of a na f.In conclusion, this is a well written book and a good account of a very strange case indeed It s a complicated case and this review can t possibly do justice to all the evidence that Harding has marshalled, and to be fair to him, presented to the reader in a thoroughly readable and accessible manner Wang Yam might or might not be innocent of Allen Chapellow s murder and after reading this book I certainly have been left with some doubts But equally, Harding s is not a sympathetic portrayal Wang Yam appears dishonest and a compulsive liar While this in itself does not mean he s guilty of murder, equally I did not reach the end of this title as sure as the author of his innocence 3 out of 5 stars In June , Police Were Called To Number Downshire Hill In Hampstead The Owner Of The House, Allan Chappelow, Was An Award Winning Photographer And Biographer, An Expert On George Bernard Shaw, And A Notorious Recluse, Who Had Not Been Seen For Several Weeks Someone Had Recently Accessed His Bank Accounts, And Attempted To Withdraw Large Amounts Of Money Inside The Darkened House, Officers Found Piles Of Rubbish, Trees Growing Through The Floor, And, In What Was Once The Living Room, The Body Of Chappelow, Battered To Death, Partially Burned And Buried Under Four Feet Of PaperThe Man Eventually Arrested On Suspicion Of His Murder Was A Chinese Dissident Named Wang Yam A Man Who Claimed To Be The Grandson Of One Of Mao S Closest Aides, And A Key Negotiator In The Tiananmen Square Protests His Trial Was The First In Modern British History To Be Held In Camera Closed, Carefully Controlled, Secret Wang Yam Was Found Guilty, But Has Always Protested His InnocenceThomas Harding Has Spent The Past Two Years Investigating The Case, Interviewing Key Witnesses, Investigating Officers, Forensic Experts And The Journalists Who Broke The Story, And Has Unearthed Shocking And Revelatory New Material On The Killing, The Victim And The Supposed Perpetrator It Is A Crime That Has Been Described In The Press And By The Leading Detective As The Greatest Whodunnit Of Recent Years An Extraordinary Tale Of Isolation, Deception And Brutal Violence, Stretching From The Quiet Streets Of North London To The Palace Of Westminster And Beyond It Is An Explosive New Work Of Non Fiction From An Author Working At The Height Of His Powers Meticulous And Gripping A Thriller That Disturbs For Revelations About A Singular Act Of Murder, And The National Security State Which We Call Home Philippe Sands, Author Of East West Street An In Cold Blood For Our Time A Brilliant And Unflinching Anatomy Of A Murder That Is Both Brutal True Crime And Heartbreaking Human Tragedy Tony Parsons A Fine And Fascinating Read, Bolstered By Exemplary Research And Nuanced Insights Observer A Real Life Procedural Which Might Have Important Implications For Us All Guardian Reads Like A Thriller A Rigorous Investigation A Revealing Piece Of Social HistorySunday TimesDetailed, Painstaking And Fascinating Evening StandardA Groundbreaking Examination Of A Terrifying Murder And Its Aftermath By The Bestselling Author Of Hanns And Rudolf And The House By The Lakebloodonthepage An engaging and thought provoking true story of tragic murder June 2006 the body of millionaire author was found battered to death in his own home Allen Chappelow was a keen photographer and author yet in his later life he was an 86 year old recluse who spent most his time in his run down home in Hampstead London The murder trail was a massive case back in 2006 and so on how it was handle, the case was held in secret, former home secretary Jacqui Smith took the very unique view that she needed to intervene for the good of national security Wang Yam has always denied the charges against him and due to his use of the victim credit cards he was charged with the murder, there was very little in the case that revealed how or if at all the two men were connected, however evidence emerge that Wang was an MI6 informant I love how well this book was written and explored the lives behind the two men, using past records, letters the victim wrote to family and how people around each men shaped their adult lives This book shows a very unique case in our British justice system and if you love true crime this is defiantly a book for you. I loved Harding s previous book, The House by the Lake , an entertaining mixture of family history and a history of 20th century Germany, and I like true crime books so this book was a must read for me It is certainly an odd and compelling story Allan Chappelow, an elderly author, is found murdered in his dilapidated family home in wealthy Hampstead The police quickly home in on Wang Yam, a refugee from Mao s China, who was found to have used Chappelow s credit card and check book He is convicted and given a life sentence Thomas Harding is attracted to the case many years later, partly because it took place near where he grew up but also because it was one of the very few murder cases to be tried partly in camera A large section of the book details the fascinating, and very different, back stories of the two participants Despite Harding s meticulous research, he appends each chapter with a case notes section in which he frequently has to explain why he was prevented from getting information mainly through the dangers of breaching the official secrets act. BLOOD ON THE PAGE is an excellent slice of modern day true crime, well written by Thomas Harding who never loses track of his narrative flow and focus as the story progresses The tale of a reclusive literary figure, found brutally murdered beneath a pile of his own papers, is frightening in itself and the early chapters in particular quite disturbing Then, halfway through, I found this book becoming a tragedy of sorts, as I made up my own mind as to the reality of the situation and just who the murderer was likely to be or not to be.Harding supplants the details with plenty of background material, both on the victim and the accused, but I found this adds to the story rather than detracts from it Yes, it s an annoyance that half of the trial was held in secret, but this merely adds to the sense of mystery surrounding the whole series of events I wonder if we ll ever discover the truth about what really happened Harding investigates the murder and robbery of a reclusive writer in London in 2006 He was attracted to the case as it was in his locality and the trial of the accused was held partly in camera, the first murder trial in modern times to be done so This is a comprehensive look at the lives of the deceased and the accused and the terrible crime that happened Very interesting and it poses some thought provoking questions. still don t know who did it or why trial was held in camera in secret uuugggggg

Thomas Harding is an author and journalist who has written for the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, among other publications He co founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award winning documentary maker He also ran a local newspaper in West Virginia, winning the West Virginia Association of Justice s Journalist of the Yea

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  • Kindle Edition
  • 320 pages
  • Blood on the Page
  • Thomas Harding
  • English
  • 08 August 2018

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