cover image The Art of the English Murder

The Art of the English Murder

Lucy Worsley. Pegasus Crime (Norton, dist.), $27.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-60598-634-0

This lively, lucid, and wonderfully lurid history from Worsley (If Walls Could Talk) examines the fascination with murder in British popular culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The book opens with an account of the Ratcliffe Highway murders%E2%80%94two separate attacks that left seven people dead. These murders established the link between sensational crime reporting and robust newspaper sales, a gruesome correlation that shaped pop culture in the U.K. in the ensuing decades. Worsley's study takes a literary spin as she traces the emergence of detective fiction from its roots in the mid-Victorian "sensation" novel. She dwells at length on the genre's "golden age"%E2%80%94the interwar period, which saw the rise of female writers (e.g., Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers)%E2%80%94and subsequently shows how detective fiction gave way to the darker American-style thriller of the Cold War era. Worsley's vivid account excites as much as its sensational subject matter, and edifies, too, thanks to her learned explications. Agent: Felicity Bryant, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Oct.)