How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime
On Sale: July 23, 2013
Hardcover / e-Book
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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.
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