"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." -Publishers Weekly, starred review
In this fascinating exploration of murder in nineteenth century England, 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 in Great Britain, 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 in Great Britain. 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.
Social historian Flanders (Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England) does a superb job of demonstrating the role that the press and fiction writers played in shaping the British public's attitudes toward crime during the 19th century. She captures perfectly the appeal of bloody fiction and macabre news stories: "Crime, especially murder, is very pleasant to think about in the abstract: it is like hearing blustery rain on the windowpane when sitting indoors." But it's unlikely that the British thought of murder much at all during the first decade of the 19th century in 1810, there were a mere 15 murder convictions in England and Wales combined. The public's perception of random lethal violence changed with the horrific 1811 Ratcliffe Highway killings, brutal mass murders in London's East End that coincided with technological advances that enabled swifter and cheaper production of broadsheets describing the crimes. Flanders's convincing and smart synthesis of the evolution of an official police force, fictional detectives, and real-life cause c l bres will appeal to devotees of true crime and detective fiction alike. B&w illus. throughout.
Downloaded on iPhone, book won't open (gives error message). Tried on iPad; opens but has rendering errors on every page from chapter one on. Tried deleting and re downloading. Seems like it's broken in the store.