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The Invention Of Murder

The Invention Of Murder, August 2013
by Judith Flanders

Thomas Dunne
560 pages
ISBN: 1250024870
EAN: 9781250024879
Kindle: B009LRWUFQ
Hardcover / e-Book
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Fresh Fiction Review

The Invention Of Murder
Judith Flanders

Reviewed by Jennifer Barnhart
Posted December 8, 2013

Non-Fiction History

The detective novel has become an established and well-loved genre that continues to grow, but there was a time before there were detectives, before there was an organized police force, and before the sensational murders of Jack the Ripper changed the face of murder.

Judith Flanders delves into Victorian society's fascination with death and detection in THE INVENTION OF MURDER by building the history of crime and punishment, and how the entertainment industry feeds off those gruesome acts, to reveal how murder became art. From Charles Dickens's first ever fictional police detective to Sherlock Holmes, the detective has indeed worn many hats. Each one reflects the ever shifting view of Victorian society towards those employed to police the people and with the new understandings of science and technology.

Even after all these years, the real-life murders and injustices are heartbreaking. Flanders's writes with compassion about the historical victims, showing their death and the injustice in stark fact. There were times I had to put the book down and walk away because it was painful to read. Flanders captures the horror of death and the use of that death for sensational profit with clarity. Always compelling, the cases and the nature of the violence weighs on the mind and soul. She balances this with a sense of irony and dry wit when discussing plot points for penny- dreadfuls.

This book is really quite humorous despite the rather bloody subject matter. History, in Flanders's hands, is fun to read. The flow from real-life crimes to how they influenced novels, plays, penny-bloods, and poetry pulls the reader through the Victorian era in an engaging and thought- provoking journey. People are fascinated by crimes. They're fascinated by criminals. They're fascinated with death. Judith Flanders captures this fascination because she understands people. She doesn't simply study history, but studies the people and continues to see them as people rather than a shadow of the past.

Fascinating, engaging, and thought-provoking THE INVENTION OF MURDER by Judith Flanders is a brilliant look into the birth of the detective novel by studying the real-life crimes that inspired Victorian writers and how this new form of detection changed the nature of murder by making it an art. I highly recommend THE INVENTION OF MURDER if you're a lover of history, the detective novel genre, and Victorian society.

Learn more about The Invention Of Murder


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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