The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

Judith Flanders. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (576p) ISBN 978-1-250-02487-9
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 célèbres will appeal to devotees of true crime and detective fiction alike. B&w illus. throughout. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/20/2013
Release date: 07/23/2013
Hardcover - 556 pages - 978-0-00-724888-9
Paperback - 556 pages - 978-0-00-724889-6
Paperback - 556 pages - 978-1-250-04853-0
Open Ebook - 576 pages - 978-1-250-02488-6
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