Criminal River: The History of the Thames River Police
This book covers the history of the Thames River Police from 1798 to the present with background information on prison conditions in the 18th century, Fenians in the 19th century and their impact on policing, prison conditions and policing in general, as well as some personalities of the River Police.
The Thames River Police had an original force of sixty-two men and now has eighty-six police officers, plus civilian support. It deals with all criminal activity on the river: smuggling, piracy, suicides, abduction of girls, murder, and during the world wars, trading with the enemy, spies, gun running, and fires caused by the Blitz.
The author has done a lot of research and quotes original documents, but it is a pity his editor was not stricter, as sometimes there is repetition and the writing does not flow easily. Presumably due to constraints of length, it often becomes just an outline of events. For instance, when Dickens meets Jonathan Whicher, there is no explanation of who Whicher is. A reference to Kate Summerscale’s book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher would have been helpful.
For an historical novelist Wade’s book is a good first point of call, but of most interest are the unsolved mysteries – always good for plots! You might want your own index, though – the one provided is very basic.