A review of books on the Wallace case as well as their overall theory.
My Top Picks:
The Murder Casebook magazine is my most beloved publication on the case, as it contains full scale HD quality photos of the crime scene, which is invaluable to an investigator. Many details invisible on other online images can be seen in these photos. Most of the close ups on my site I have made by photographing close-ups of the images in the magazine.
It came out before the case files were viewed, and therefore strongly favours Roger Wilkes’ solution on the case (Gordon’s Olivia Brine alibi was known to nobody until the case files were made publicly viewable – he did not even mention it to researchers like Goodman who accused him of murder).
Although Goodman’s book was written before the case files were viewed (meaning it is missing crucial elements such as later-discovered evidence including Gordon Parry’s alibi with Olivia Brine), I believe this to be the best book on the case.
John Gannon’s book would be my top pick for its purpose as a researcher’s guide but a couple of things should be noted… First of all is that despite best intentions and effort with such a mass of information, the book has a few factual errors in parts – errors of fact which can entirely swing an opinion on the case when analyzed (for example, the statement about Julia having never worn “a” mackintosh, when it was “the”). I recommend getting Gannon’s book on Kindle and using the search function, because as an actual reading experience it needs editing.
If you are looking for a more casual reading experience, Move to Murder by Antony M. Brown is probably the best choice. This is a dialed down telling of the story for a reader looking for a quick murder mystery fix, and quite unbiased in its writing style (it presents multiple possible solutions).
All Books I Own:
[LATEST] (2020) Checkmate: The Wallace Murder Mystery by Mark Russell:
A new book on the case which the author spent about 15 years writing. Very comprehensive with the facts of the case, and it reads well unlike many other write-ups.
The author’s dismissal of testimony is not well explained in my opinion. While he offers some explanation for disbelieving John Parkes, the dismissal of Lily Hall is unwarranted; essentially he implies she is lying and seeking publicity, despite the similar sighting of a “stocky man” in a hat reported within minutes of her own by Mr. Greenlees (which the book mentions in passing). I think this could have used more attention. Further, in the conclusion the author does the same as James Murphy and excludes Lily Lloyd’s reported timing of Gordon’s arrival at her home (which would allow for him to have placed the phone call).
The author fumbles a fair bit regarding Gordon’s false alibi. He claims that Gordon made a simple mistake, or that he was with another woman. I did not find either convincing, and if the latter was the case it’s unlikely he’d have said he was with his girlfriend instead (since he would surely know she would be questioned, and thus find out that he had lied about his whereabouts and quiz him on it).
The book includes high quality photographs, some new. Mostly inconsequential ones such as photos of the police station, but still interesting nontheless. These are among the best in print, but if you are looking for photos first and foremost, “Murder Casebook No. 25” is still the best pick.
It is essentially a more factually-rich version of James Murphy’s prior book, and crucially, more honest. I would recommend it as a “guilty William” book to give a balanced insight into the case.
Theory: William called himself and then murdered his wife (solo William).
(1933) The Trial of William Herbert Wallace by William Frederick Wyndham Brown:
Thoughts: I’d personally give this one a miss, especially since the entire book has been made public domain and is available for free on the web. I have uploaded it here to ensure it remains online, though it is originally from Archive.org:
Plus on this very site I have made available a much fuller version of the trial:
Theory: No theory is presented as far as I know, it is simply a transcription of the trial edited by Wyndham-Brown, with a few of Wallace’s diary entries at the end (John Wilkes in “Wallace: The Final Verdict” includes these and more).
(1936) The Anatomy of Murder [Chapter by Dorothy L. Sayers]:
Yes that’s right, famed and esteemed detective fiction novelist Dorothy L. Sayers wrote her own piece on the Wallace case. As you might expect of a detective novelist, she goes into a lot of detail about the locks in particular.
To own this is simply a no-brainer, just given who the author is… As well as the time at which it was written, where the facts of contemporary life which we are unaware of in the 21st century crop up in droves.
Theory: Sums up the case as “insoluble” without rendering opinion, but I get the feeling she believes Wallace to be guilty.
(1949) The Wallace Case by John Rowland:
Thoughts: A contemporary book written in the late ’40s. A lot of the book is a recounting of the trial, which you can see on this site or in the Archive.org transcript of Wyndham-Brown’s book. What is interesting though, is that unlike these transcriptions, he describes the reactions of the jury, the way the witnesses acted under questioning, etc.
Probably won’t be worth it except to a real die-hard enthusiast looking for tiny old tidbits of rare information.
Theory: John Rowland believes that Wallace is an innocent man, without naming a suspect. He thinks the intruder may have threatened Mrs. Wallace with the bar intending to get at the cash and take off.
(1950) Verdict in Dispute by Edgar Marcus Lustgarten
Thoughts: Brilliantly written, but no new information, and it’s mostly a covering of the trial. Probably not worth picking up despite my praise of the book… It does cover a number of cases though so if that’s of any interest you, maybe give it a go.
Theory: Left open-ended.
(1955) Background to Murder by Nigel Morland
Thoughts: Essentially facts which are known from later publications, so probably not worth picking up. Something interesting though: He says Julia’s maiden name was “Thorp”, which is in direct contradiction to later authors who said it was “Dennis”. Though there are other cases covered in this book, the Wallace case is the main case, the others almost short stories.
Theory: Morland suggests that it is extremely obvious Wallace and Wallace alone called himself and killed his wife. Rather than wearing the mackintosh though, Morland believes William handled it “like a toreador’s cape” to protect from splatter.
(1967) The Meaning of Murder by John Brophy
Thoughts: The Wallace case is covered in just 19 pages in this book. While I like the way it is written, for most people I doubt such a short chapter will be worth it. He does mention something rather unknown which I should quote:
“If he (the caller) consulted a large scale map (5 inches to the mile at the time) current at the period, he must have noticed a few oddities about the map. Wolverton Street is not marked at all. The ‘conventional sign’ indicating the points of the compass has no words or letters to show which direction is which, but immediately beside the arm pointing North is the isolated capital letter S (from the word ‘Mersey’) so anyone not fully alert might confuse north with south and therefore, east with west.
In the Menlove Avenue area, the three streets called Menlove Gardens are clearly enough named, but whereas Menlove Gardens South appears with ‘South’ abbreviated to ‘S’, and Menlove Gardens North appears with an ‘N’ after Gardens, Menlove Gardens West has no ‘W’ at the end.”
Theory: It seems to me that Brophy believes Wallace to be innocent.
(1969) The Killing of Julia Wallace by Jonathan Goodman:
Thoughts: One of the best books on the Wallace case. Because it came out so early there are things presented in the book which were later verified as having happened differently when the case files were released for public viewing. It is also quite biased in favour of the innocence of Wallace.
However, it is one of the “must-have” books on the case in my opinion, very thorough, and a lot of contemporary detail. Jonathan Goodman actually confronted Gordon Parry in person at the time of writing his book. He thought Parry had the fake charm of a used car salesman, and he (Parry) told Goodman that Wallace was a “strange man” and sexually odd, and that he (Parry) would often go to see Julia to sing along to her piano playing.
Theory: Jonathan Goodman believes that Wallace is entirely innocent, and Gordon Parry is the caller and murderer. This book came out before Gordon’s alibi with Olivia Brine for the day of the murder was found.
(1970) Two Studies in Crime by Yseult Bridges:
Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book, although in reality it’s “one study in crime”… Yes it has two cases, but the first case discussed is the one prosecutor Mr. Hemmerde mentioned during Wallace’s trial as proof someone can get away without blood on them – so it’s clearly included solely for that reason.
I found the author to be quite biased against Wallace in parts (you’ll often find bending of ordinary logic to fit the idea of guilt which can be annoying), but some of the arguments were good and I appreciated the contemporary information.
Although Goodman’s book was first published in 1969, he has later editions such as the one I linked earlier and directly responds to some of Yseult Bridge’s claims with rebuttals.
As far as I know Bridges is the only one to have included a statement from the telephone engineer about the state of the telephone when he checked it. Supposedly he found a real fault with the phone box.
(1972) Murderer Scot-free by Robert F. Hussey:
Thoughts: Out of the physical books I own (I own most on Kindle), this is one of the ones I enjoyed the most – along with Yseult Bridge’s Two Studies in Crime which I disagree with but is engagingly-written. The conclusion appears to be that Gordon Parry placed the call, and another man known to Parry attempted to “sneak thief” from the insurance box. I enjoyed the map and photos such as these:
And overall I found it to be a good read.
Theory: Gordon Parry called and Marsden or a stranger posing as Qualtrough murdered Julia Wallace.
(1985) Wallace: The Final Verdict by Roger Wilkes:
Thoughts: This is another publication which came out before Gordon Parry’s alibi was known. Roger Wilkes did fantastic work, really, but when Lily Lloyd said she faked Gordon’s alibi he naturally assumed she meant he had no alibi for the time of the murder.
In actual fact, although Lily Lloyd apparently said he arrived at her house earlier than reality, he was covered during the window of time the murder was committed in by Olivia Brine, Harold Denison, and Phyllis Plant (the latter of whom was not asked for a statement), until 20:30 when he apparently left. Wallace got home at just a touch before 20:45.
Although it came out after the Radio City show he hosted, and so contains extra tidbits of testimony, for the most part it is a book form of what was said on the radio. The main pull of his theory, show, and book, is the John Parkes testimony found on part 3 of the radio show.
You can listen the “Radio City” show here (I am missing the Call In part of the show):
Theory: Gordon called the chess club then murdered Julia Wallace the following day.
(1985) Guilty or Innocent by Anita Gustaffson:
Thoughts: Avoid this one, very poor quality. Refers to Richard Gordon Parry as “Reginald” and John Parkes as “Parks”. Not sure if the other cases covered are any good, but the write-up on the Wallace case is seriously bad and poorly researched. The worst publication I’ve read on the case.
Theory: Believes Parry called and killed Julia (I think), but given the total lack of research I wouldn’t give it any weight.
(1990) Murder Casebook No.25: The Perfect Murder:
Thoughts: An utterly invaluable and thoroughly enjoyable read. Invaluable for the enlarged high definition photos of the crime scene. Many things you cannot see in any images online or in other books can be seen in the photos in this magazine, including blood splashes up the wall in the parlour among other things.
Theory: Gordon Parry called and killed Julia Wallace.
(2001) The Murder of Julia Wallace by James Murphy:
Thoughts: Widely considered one of the best books on the case, as it was one of the first books published where the author had access to the case files.
Unfortunately Murphy has now been outed as having purposefully falsified and doctored crucial statements and files. Being the first author to gain access to home office files on the case, rather than treat them with the respect they deserve, he evidently decided to use them to make himself into some kind of detective superstar by bending reality as he deemed fit – often inserting entire paragraphs he made up into statements and trying to pass them off as the real deal.
Unfortunately for him, I have made all the DPP case files public on this site (the same files he references and used), so while I myself and other authors such as Antony M. Brown can confirm that Murphy’s work contains errors throughout, now any casual reader need only go onto these files and see in black and white ink that the man is a liar – they need not take my word for it. It seems there is a moral message almost worthy of being an Aesop fable in there somewhere.
Documents doctored by Murphy include the official forensic report by McFall. James Murphy took it upon himself to remove entire segments of this report, replacing them with his own fictionalized ones, and passing it off as McFall’s words. Here is the official document in black and white ink, directly from the case files:
And now Murphy’s falsification exposed, as pointed out in Move to Murder by Antony M. Brown, which I can confirm since I own Murphy’s book too:
“A different report, published in James Murphy’s The Murder of Julia Wallace (p. 56), contained minor stylistic differences in sections 1-3 but major changes were incorporated into the final sections. Section 6 is expunged and section 4 is replaced with the following: “The appearance was as if a terrific force with a hard instrument had driven in the skull in 11 places… The edges of the wounds were not sharp. Death was due to the fracture of the skull by someone striking the deceased 11 times upon the head with terrific force with a hard instrument. From my findings, in my opinion, one blow was harder and more severe than the rest. This one blow produced the front, open wound, and caused death, which took place in one minute.””
– Antony M. Brown, Move to Murder.
Since Antony M. Brown has divided the report into numbered segments, I will post below to show what he is referencing (what Antony refers to as sections 1-3 does not seem purposefully doctored by Murphy so I have omitted that):
Section 4: The appearance was as if a terrific force with a large surface had driven in the scalp, bursting it in parallel lines, with the appearance of several incised wounds, but the edges of these wounds was not sharp.
Section 6: I am of the opinion that death was due to fracture of the skull by someone striking the deceased three or four times with a hard large-headed instrument.
– Antony M. Brown, Move to Murder.
Theory: Wallace called the club and murdered his wife.
(2011) The Murders of Merseyside by Tom Slemen:
Although Slemen has a bad reputation, I have found his work on this case to be the complete inverse of Murphy’s. What I mean by that is, Murphy is often considered a bastion of truth and yet has been exposed by a liar, while Tom Slemen is considered an awful source of fact, yet every fact he has mentioned that I have been able to check in official files has been verified… Often quite minute and peculiar facts mentioned nowhere else.
He has made a mistake in the residency of John Sharpe Johnston’s friend in Menlove Gardens. Slemen claims 30 Menlove Gardens West, but what he means is 30 Menlove Gardens South. He also includes a testimony from a man giving the name “Stan” purporting that Johnston had confessed, and then gives this supposed confession which contains peculiar and very little known facts such as the fact Julia’s cat had been missing. A fact so obscure and a testimony seemingly too farfetched to have been dreamed up by someone not intimately acquainted with the case or the Wallaces, it must be considered.
Slemen is also the first author to finger neighbour John Sharpe Johnston as being the killer.
Taboo to even mention his name among Wallace case researchers, perhaps because they are angry a man who has written about Jesus being an extra-terrestrial and ghost stories happened to beat them to revealing new facts.
Theory: John Sharpe Johnston murdered Julia Wallace.
(2012) Murder Tales: Unsolved by H. N. Lloyd
Thoughts: Contains a chapter featuring the Wallace case which I have not read in some time. He seems all too certain that Gordon Parry has murdered Julia, and some facts are wrong here.
Theory: Gordon Parry murdered Julia Wallace.
(2012) The Killing of Julia Wallace by John Gannon:
Thoughts: This is THE researcher’s book. If you could pick just one resource to learn about this case with a mind to coming up with a solution, this is the one you need. No question about that.
PLEASE do not buy a physical copy of this book, and do not get a copy if you’re looking for a story to read; this is not something to read in bed for an engaging detective tale. This is what you get if you want to do your own research on the case.
The editing means a lot of the information is rather randomly placed. For example, it will say some random information about the police superintendent Hugh Moore, then talk about something else, then like 60 pages later there will be another segment with random information on Hugh Moore.
Although this book is my go-to book which I constantly have my nose in since I am a researcher, it is vital that you use Kindle or any other eBook format so you can use the search function. There is an insane amount of detail in this book spread out rather sporadically. But the amount of research that Gannon has done is frankly unbelievable. He must have spent years on this… If it wasn’t for him nobody would know about Marsden or Marsden’s client R. J. Qualtrough.
Theory: Gannon believes that Wallace convinced Marsden and Parry to murder his wife, since the two of them were sleeping with her for money. Although I don’t think Julia was sleeping with Parry and Marsden, a bizarre suggestion, but the overarching idea (a conspiracy) is one of the stronger ones.
(2017) Unsolved: 1931 by Pat Finn:
Thoughts: The tale of Julia Wallace is one of just a very large number of cases included in this book. Despite that, it appears Finn has given this particular case a reasonable amount of attention, and has included testimony from Home Office files which was – as far as I’m aware – not published elsewhere before being made public domain on this site.
The attention to detail given it is just one case in such an enormous collection is impressive.
Theory: No opinion rendered.
(2018) The Telephone Murder by Ronald Bartle:
Bartle’s book is riddled with factual errors, but he raises a few decent points here, and includes the statement of the Holmes who were living next door to Wallace (the Wallace’s home being on a terraced street, had two adjoining neighbouring households).
Theory: Wallace murdered his wife.
(2018) Move to Murder by Antony M. Brown:
Thoughts: If you want an exciting detective tale to give as a gift to a relative, this is the book I would recommend.
Antony does a great job of fictionalizing the case (in other words, re-telling the case using facts in a format similar to a fiction novel). Since I am a researcher concerned with the true facts, I have some issue with the mixing of real evidence with fictional additions which have been placed to make the book a better read. There is no way to tell them apart.
As an example, there is a conversation in the story where Wallace’s chess partner McCartney asks Wallace for his address. Antony confirmed to me that this is a real conversation that happened; rather important since that means anyone at the chess club now knows Wallace’s business details and address (!!!)… Yet at other parts there will be mentions of how Julia saw “M”‘s “gaudy ring” which is pure fiction.
What I really like however, is the Evidence segments. The diagrams and pictures Antony has included are very well made and clear. The timelines he has presented appear to use accurate times (rather than “sharpening and levelling” them to fit the theory he wants to push).
As another plus for a casual reader, he has a website where you can place your verdict after reading the book: https://www.coldcasejury.com/case03/yourverdict1.asp
Theory: Antony’s final theory, a print of a theory by Rod Stringer, proposes an accomplice of Parry’s went to the home, attempted to stealthily steal from the box, and was caught by Julia. Despite the similarity to my own solution, the differences make his proposition, in my view, completely impossible.
For example, Antony and Stringer have the attacker caught red-handed, chasing Julia through the house, grabbing her after she takes the coat to flee the home, then dragging her into the parlour and physically forcing her to sit down on the chair before murdering her… Why he decides to do this one can only imagine.
On the plus side, he presents multiple other different theories before giving his own conclusion.