Lee Jackson is an English author of mystery books best known for his Sarah Tanner and Decimus Webb series. He is a historian and author with interest in geography and the social history of Victorian London. He is also the creator of The Dictionary of Victorian London website, which contains a massive compilation of primary sources that shows the social history of the 19th-century metropolis.

The Times described his 2014 Dirty Old London novel as a well-researched history of sanitation, which read like a book and was referred as utterly engrossing by the New York Times.

Dirty Old London

Dirty Old London is considered as a novel that should be a reader by everyone who intends to be involved in housing or city planning now or in the future. It’s also a recommended read for anyone involved in politics both locally and nationally.

The book is history and monument to all those who bickered, agitated, planned, obstructed, invented and constructed in London from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. The story is also divided into different chapters regarding the type of nuisance and filth it’s dealing with, and this gives us different chapters on subjects like soot, sewage, household refuse, and wretched housing. This may appear arbitrary to more vital subjects in society, but most readers will agree to the fact that the foundations of any society are that the dirt and filth humans produce are dealt with in an orderly manner. If not, then, the evidence of what that does into our lives and health has well been documented in history. A lot of that is also dealt within the chapters of this book, and through this we get to learn how the Victorians linked poor sanitation to poor health and increased death rates. The book also provides the reader with a glimpse of how the politics of the time helped or hindered the development of modern sanitation.

The sewer network built by Joseph Bazalgette in the 1850s to 1860s in Victorian London testifies creativity and ingenuity of art. They remain the few architectural structures that are in use in the current generation. These 150 years old structures serve along with newer and prettier systems. They have stood the test of time in their usefulness. Only two sewer facilities served the London city the Bazalgette’ greater sewer networks and the Metropolitan Board of Works Sewer. The others are more recent that have greatly improved the sewer services.

As the city’s population grew, there was pressure on the sewer networks. The political class, who had the mandate to make policies on filth management, was only concerned about their well-being.

The writer of this book, with inspiration from George Bernard Shawn, talked at this filth and any effort to clean it up. The writer documented how politicians neglected any responsibility for waste management. These left the duties for the paving boards and local vestries. The parliament distanced itself from any works by the local government. The writer highlights the political bickering that happened at that time. There were many broken promises. London’s growth escalated; the sewer system could not hold all the waste produced; Stench filled the air. Cesspools of filth decorated the city. People in the local authorities were busy fighting for power and wealth. They distanced themselves from the central authority. Capitalism drove the government.

All development projects stalled; No expansion works took place. London resembled a large compost pit; the environment became inhabitable; Airborne diseases attacked the residents. This situation could have been used to convince those in authority to take action. Instead, they were more concerned about making the rich more comfortable at the expense of the poor. The poor lived in a deplorable state. Quick action needed to be taken to save their lives. It was not going to happen soon in a government that looked at the citizens’ purchasing power. Their lives were threatened.

The chapter “Wretched Housing” highlighted the state of a housing scheme for the less fortunate back in the days. Social housing has saved the situation since its advent. Although it is considered a loss to the government, it reduced the shame it brought to the local authorities. This highlighted how capitalism dictated people’s lives. It’s easier for the reader to conclude that this book that talks of the least discussed topic; filth, and accumulation. We see how our forefathers were concerned about sanitation. They set long-term plans and executed wholeheartedly. Creativity and quality and thoroughness are visible in the current 150 years old sewer system they left to serve generations. They have contributed to what London and the UK are today. Otherwise, many people would have succumbed to waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

A Metropolitan Murder

A Metropolitan Murder is the first in the thrilling Inspector Webb series by Lee Jackson. The final train of the night stops into the gas-lit Baker Street underground station. A young woman is found dead, and her body disposed in a second class carriage. The brutal railway killing attracts the attention of Inspector Decimus Web to the newly constructed Metropolitan Line on desolate winter’s night. His investigations into the murder lead him across the slums of Victorian London straight to Holborn Refuge, a home for the fallen women, and then to Clara White as well respected servant.

However, Clara has her dark past, and as her past is revealed, Webb must decide whether Clara is just a victim of circumstance or a key suspect. Only then can he uncover the deadly history, hidden deep in the depths of underground London. Lee Jackson’s series debut novel vividly recreates the sights and sounds of Victorian London, taking the reader on a suspense-filled journey through the criminal underworld. A Metropolitan Murder is a fascinating thriller set in 1864 during the early days of Metropolitan Line, which was the world’s first underground railway line. It’s a good read you can read in sittings with lots of historical details, wealthy philanthropic types, and small-time criminals.

Books in order of publication by series:

Decimus Webb Books

A Metropolitan Murder(2004) 
The Welfare of the Dead(2005) 
The Last Pleasure Garden(2006) 

Sarah Tanner Books

A Most Dangerous Woman(2007) 
The Mesmerist’s Apprentice(2008) 

Standalone Novels

London Dust(2003) 
The Diary of a Murder(2011) 

Non-Fiction Books

Victorian London(2004) 
A Dictionary of Victorian London(2006) 
Daily Life in Victorian London(2011) 
Dickens’ London(2012) 
Dirty Old London(2014) 
Palaces of Pleasure(2019)