In this fascinating exploration of murder in the nineteenth century, Judith Flanders examines some of the most gripping cases that captivated the Victorians and gave rise to the first detective fiction.
Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama - even into puppet shows and performing dog-acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other - the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens's Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell.
In this meticulously researched and engrossing book, Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder, both famous and obscure: from Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancée around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare's bodysnatching business in Edinburgh; from the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedy of the murdered Marr family in London's East End. Through these stories of murder - from the brutal to the pathetic - Flanders builds a rich and multi-faceted portrait of Victorian society. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad and the utterly dangerous, The Invention of Murder is both a mesmerizing tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable.
It is not often that history can be described by the words "a page-turner," or "I couldn't put it down," but Judith Flanders succeeds on both levels. She provides an intriguing slant on an era about which there are many myths and misconceptions and shows us only too well that we are not so far removed from our ancestors after all. (Reviewed by Judi Sauerbrey).
Starred Review. Superb… Flanders's convincing and smart synthesis of the evolution of an official police force, fictional detectives, and real-life cause célèbres will appeal to devotees of true crime and detective fiction alike.
The Telegraph (UK)
An entertaining excursion into the Victorians' taste for murder…The cast is full of swindlers and forgers and other doubtful characters.
The Times Literary Supplement (UK)
Flanders's book is more than a catalog of crimes…it builds into an alternative history of the Victorian age, its narrow, purposeful focus providing a means of seeing, from an oblique perspective, terrain which might previously have seemed familiar.
Sunday Times (UK)
Engrossing…Flanders excels at following the trends in detection and how this was reflected in writing.
Scotland on Sunday
Riveting and meticulous…Flanders balances judicious facts with lively story-telling…the research behind this book is phenomenal…The Invention of Murder is what great non-fiction should be; as erudite as it is entertaining, as gripping as fiction despite being "stranger than fiction."
The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Compelling…remarkable…in this intelligent and comprehensive compendium of murder, she has left no gravestone unturned.
Daily Mail (UK)
Excellent, well-written and hugely well-informed.
The Independent (UK)
This is so much more than a compendium of famous crimes…Flanders's knowledge of the period is both wide and extraordinarily deep. She writes incisively, and often with dark wit.
BBC History Magazine (UK)
Flanders has written a book rather like one of the great, rambling Victorian novels that she discusses, though most readers will find her work a lot easier, and a lot more fun… the sheer sumptuousness of Flanders's book leaves the reader wanting still more.
Mail on Sunday (UK)
A book jam-packed with fascinating details, not only about the Victorian attitude to murder, but much else besides.
The Independent on Sunday (UK)
A penetrating study of the way in which murder can take hold of the creative imagination.
The Spectator (UK)
Part social history, part literary history, and part penny-blood itself. In the fine tradition of its subject it both has its cake and eats it. Yum. Strychnine.
The Irish Times
Plenty of gruesome detail, but also a dry humor…a valuable and well-researched account of Victorian society in Britain and its growing fascination with the ultimate crime…All human death is here.
Globe and Mail
Judith Flanders has produced a compelling study of how crime, and crime prevention, emerged as a popular obsession in 19th century Britain, and came to dominate its literature…mesmerizing.
To paraphrase an old poem, "Twas a balmy summer afternoon," July 5, 2011 to be exact. I was enjoying a peaceful lunch with a dear friend at an outdoor cafe in Portland, Oregon, when my cell phone rang and my usually placid, always refined eighty-nine year old mother screeched: "It's not guilty on all counts, and Nancy Grace is having a cow!"
She was speaking of the Casey Anthony verdict, which had just come down after a trial that had captivated Mom and a goodly portion of the rest of the country (including yours truly!) for the better part of three years. To this day that memory has an eerie aura for me very reminiscent of an old television show hosted by Walter Cronkite called You Are There! I even remember how every broadcast began: "What kind of a day was it? A day like any other day – and you are there!"
I mention this because on that July day of my mother's epic phone call, I began to wonder why it is that otherwise respectable, law-abiding individuals on any ordinary day in any ordinary week seem so obsessed with murder, mayhem, and the...
Filled with evocative descriptions of Cambridge, past and present, of seventeenth-century glassmaking, alchemy, the Great Plague, and Newtons scientific innovations, Ghostwalk centers around a real historical mystery that Rebecca Stott has uncovered involving Newtons alchemy.
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...