Excerpt from The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Invention of Murder

How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

by Judith Flanders

The Invention of Murder
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2013, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2014, 576 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Judi Sauerbrey

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


In the morning, a magistrate from the Thames Division Police Office took over the case. An officer from the Thames Division Police Office had responded the night before, and therefore the magistrates at the Thames Office were now in charge. A magistrate ordered the printing of handbills offering a reward, and visited the site of the murder, where the bodies lay where they had fallen the night before.

He was not the only one. What might be termed murder-sightseeing was a popular pastime, and many went 'from curiosity to examine the premises', where they entered 'and saw the dead bodies'. Inquests were held as quickly as possible after the event, usually at a public house or tavern near the scene of the crime. The bodies were left in situ for the jury to view. Until they had been, visitors traipsed through the gore-spattered rooms, peering not only at the blood splashes and other grisly reminders of the atrocity, but also at the bodies themselves.

For those who wanted a tangible souvenir, there were always broadsides, which were swiftly on sale on street corners. Broadsides had been around since the sixteenth century, but modern technology made their production easier, cheaper and quicker, and their distribution more widespread. A typical broadside was a single sheet, printed on one side, which was sold on the street for ½d. or 1d. Broadsides had their heyday before the 1850s, when newspapers were expensive. Most commonly, sheets were produced sequentially for each crime that caught the public's imagination: the first report of the crime, with further details as they were revealed; the magistrates' court hearing after an arrest; then the trial; and finally, and most profitably, a 'sorrowful lamentation' and 'last confession', usually combined with a description of the execution. These 'lamentations' and execution details were almost always entirely fabricated for commercial reasons: they found their readiest sale at the gallows, while the body was still swaying. For those who could not find a penny, pubs and coffee houses pinned up broadsides of popular crimes, to be read by customers as they drank. Other broadsides appeared in shop windows, frequently attracting crowds of bloodthirsty children.

One broadside, published before the Marrs' inquest, which opened three days after the murders, reported that 'the perpetrators are foreigners', which could have done little to reassure readers in this dockyard area of town, filled with sailors from across the world. Another spent less time on the possible murderer, and more on the gory details and the rumours that were prevalent: that Mrs Marr had, several months before, discharged a servant for theft. 'Words arose, when the accused girl is said to have held out a threat of murder. Mrs. Marr … gently rebuked her for using such language'; later Mrs Marr 'remonstrated with her on her loose character and hasty temper'. Anyone with a penny to spare would get a fair idea of the crime and the latest news of the search for the murderer.

Those with a few more pennies could buy a pamphlet on the subject. These were available nearly as swiftly as the broadsides. One covered all the details of the inquest, so it was probably on sale within five days of the deaths. While the pamphlets looked more substantial at eight pages, much of their information was identical to that in the broadsides. In some, such similar wording is used that either they must have shared an author, or one was copied from the other. Mrs Marr again sacks her servant, who 'is said to have held out a threat of murder. Mrs. Marr … gently rebuked her for using such language'; later she again 'remonstrated with her on her loose character and hasty temper'. Now, however, we get the additional detail that the servant was leading a 'prostituted life'. This is reinforced by a description of her clothes: 'a white gown, black velvet spencer [jacket], cottage bonnet with a small feather, and shoes with Grecian ties'. No servant could afford such fashionable items: they were signs that her money was earned immorally.

From Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Screaming Bloody Murder

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...
  • Book Jacket: Dinner with Edward
    Dinner with Edward
    by Isabel Vincent
    In late 2009 Isabel Vincent and her family were still newcomers to New York City. She and her ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!