In The Maul and the Pear Tree detective novelist P.D. James and police historian T.A. Critchley revisit these murders, describing the discoveries of the crimes, the public response and the frantic but ineffectual hue and cry, and the death in prison of suspect John Williams, who was then buried at a crossroads with a stake through his heart. In a final chapter they reinterpret the evidence, attempting both to clear Williams ("virtually condemned and his memory vilified on evidence so inadequate, circumstantial and irrelevant that no competent court of law would commit him for trial") and to uncover the real authors of the murders (and possibly of Williams' death as well).
James and Critchley allow this story its natural drama, without resorting to unnecessary fictionalisation or exaggeration. They also use it to illustrate how law enforcement at the time worked — or failed to work. London in 1811 had no centralised police force, but relied on uncoordinated action by local magistrates supervising a few policemen, the parish watch, and in this case the Thames River Police and the recently created Bow Street Runners. Parliamentary moves, following the Ratcliffe Highway murders, to reform the system of nightwatchmen came to nothing: not until 1829 was the Metropolitan Police established.