Book Review - Bella: An Unsolved Murdery - Joyce M. Coley (2007)

Cover - Bella: An Unsolved Murder by Joyce M. Coley (2007)
Cover - Bella: An Unsolved Murder
by Joyce M. Coley (2007)

The Book
Bella: An Unsolved Murder. Joyce M. Coley. History in Print. 2007.

This book was written over 12 years ago by Joyce M. Coley, and is often quoted in Bella lore. I ordered a copy from Amazon and read it in less than an hour.

The book is more pamphlet than "book" comprising only 26 pages. It provides an overview of the case but has absolutely no references or footnotes, which makes its value rather limited. How much of what Coley writes is hearsay? How much is first-hand research from primary sources? Hard to say. In many respects then, this book is a compilation of anecdotes, facts, stories and rumours, all woven together into a rather disjointed whole.

Having said that, there are some accounts which are new in their thoroughness - for example the story of Warwick Aston Plant and his mother and the girl who played the piano in their pub (p. 10-12). I've come across bits and pieces of this story before, but the amount of detail presented by Coley is new.

Another account, that of Douglas Osborne and his post-war meeting with Canadian intelligence officers, is also quite extensive.  I admit to being perplexed as to how Canadian intelligence officers would have been permitted to (a) talk about secret matters such as Germans spies and (b) been permitted to take German Secret Service documents back to Canada.

Some of the details are a bit annoying though - for example on page 21, where she notes that journalist Matthew Gull found a reference to a spy called Clara in a Birmingham reference library. More detail would have been helpful.

And then there is some information which is completely false - for example on page 25, the story of the spy found dead in a Cambridge air shelter. This would Jan Willem ter Braak and Coley notes that "this man had letters sent from England, to families still in Germany, through the Red Cross". I have no idea where that information comes from as there is not a hint in ter Braak's files on any letters being found on his person, or in his effects.

Similarly, she notes that Jack Mossop's death certificate stats that he died from an overdose of drugs. This is not accurate and therefore makes me wonder how much of the book can be trusted.

This little booklet is interesting but I'm not entirely sure of how accurate the information is. It would seem to muddy the waters more than anything.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - interesting


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