The Gamblers by John Pearson - Book Review
The Gamblers by John Pearson Book Review
One has to look pretty closely at the subtitle of this book to catch the drift of what it is really all about. The subtitle actually says "and the murder of Lord Lucan".
For those that don't know, the Lord Lucan murder was one of the most infamous of the twentieth century. His children's nanny, Sandra Rivett was brutally battered to death one evening by person(s) unknown in the Lucan London household.
Following the murder Lord Lucan disappeared, telling his friends he was lying doggo for a while as he tried to clear his name. Previously the Lord had expressed a desire to murder his wife on more than one occasion, and the similarity in build and height between his wife and the nanny convinced many people, the police included, that the noble Lord had murdered the nanny in error.
Lord (Lucky) Lucan, as he was known, not that he was ever particularly lucky, disappeared and went on the run, never to be seen again to this day. Rumours abounded that he was hunkering down somewhere, living with, and being protected by his hi-profile friends. Unconfirmed sightings in places as fas away as Africa and Australia continue to come in to this day.
Usually when people discuss the Lord Lucan murder mystery, they mean, the murder of Sandra Rivett. This book is different, the writer is purporting that Lord Lucan himself was murdered by some of those very friends, because he was becoming too much of a hot potato, that he was threatening to return to the public eye in an effort to clear his name, and by doing so, would implicate those friends that had supported him, for harbouring a wanted murderer.
It is an interesting theory. The writer goes further, saying that he knows who was responsible, but here, because that person is still alive, things become cloudy. The person is referred to throughout the book as Mr X. Good old Mister X!
Mr X theories in books always leave me cold because of course anyone can invent a Mr X in their own mind, even convince themselves of this phantom's existence, and no one can prove otherwise; or indeed the existence of such a person for obvious reasons.
But the writer of The Gamblers clearly knew and spoke to many of the surviving people involved, and seems to portray an insightful view of the events that went down in that Belgravia house on a bleak November night in 1974. Whether there really was, or is, a Mr X, and whether he was responsible in some way for the possible murder of Lord Lucan I shall leave you to decide.
The Gamblers, as featured on the front cover, consisted of Lucky himself, plus John Aspinall, erstwhile owner of the Clermont Club, a top London gambling establishment where an addiction to Chemin de Fer brought John huge wealth, and conversely, Lucky Lucan practically to his financial knees, (could that alone be reason and motive enough for murder?) while the third member featured, (there were plenty of others by the way), was Jimmy Goldsmith, international tycoon who specialised in buying ailing companies and knocking them into shape, not to mention launching (failed) crusading newspapers and magazines.
All three of those men are now dead, or at least Lucky Lucan has been officially pronounced dead, though rumours still abound to the contrary, and even to this day some people won't accept it.
Jimmy Goldsmith became fabulously wealthy, enabling him to run three different families in three different countries, and he was a heavy gambler too, though in his case it would appear he won more often than lost.
He would certainly have had the financial muscle to assist Lucan, and indeed, according to the book, offered Lucan a considerable gift of money, an offer that Lucan was bound to refuse, because as I am sure you know, true gentlemen never accept gifts of money from friends. A loan yes, gifts, never.
As for John Aspinall, he established his crazy private zoo at Howletts in Kent, still there to this day, and very popular it is too. In John Aspinall's time he convinced himself that all animals,- bears, tigers, gorillas, you name it, could be made personal friends of. John was ever eager to prove his point by going into the enclosures and cages as a matter of course, and not only that, would invite friends and family to come in too, and often they did.
There is one particularly harrowing scene in the book where a fully grown tiger attempts to bite the head off one of the young boys, and another scene where someone is invited into the adjoining mansion for a meal, and happily accepts, only to find two full grown gorillas at the best dining table enjoying lunch. Sit down, why don't you? Banana anyone?
Howletts has always striven to do things differently, and by my arithmetic at least five keepers have paid for this radical approach with their lives.
The Gamblers is a rollicking read, a real page turner, and a revealing insight of a group of men who probably had too much money to play with; and too much time on their hands.
The three featured gamblers may now be all dead, but Mr X is out there still. Isn't he always? Food for thought, don't you think, but don't let that put you off. One must never forget that the nanny lost her life in that very brutal attack, but that aside, this is a hugely enjoyable story, and still an ongoing mystery that may never be solved, and a book I would unhesitatingly recommend.
Time for some video now. If you are interested in murder cases in general, and the Lord Lucan murder and subsequent disappearance in particular, then you might be interested in this TV programme on the case. It's coming up right now and it makes good watching.
And turning from factual murder cases to fictional ones, you might like to check out Inspector Walter Darriteau's cases in The Murder Diaries - Seven Times Over, and The Sound of Sirens that you can do by clicking on the book titles.