A deeply engaging and completely original book about nineteenth-century Britain’s fascination with good quality murder.
Murder in nineteenth-century Britain was ubiquitous – not necessarily in quantity but in quality. This was the era of penny-bloods, early crime fiction and melodramas for the masses. This was a time when murder and entertainment were firmly entwined.
In this meticulously researched and compelling book, Judith Flanders, author of Consuming Passions, takes us back in time to explore some of the most gripping, gruesome and mind-boggling murders of the nineteenth-century. Covering the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, as well as the lesser known but equally shocking acts of Burke and Hare, and Thurtell and Hunt, Flanders looks at how murder was regarded by the wider British population – and how it became a form of popular entertainment.
Filled to the brim with rich source material – ranging from studies of plays, novels and contemporary newspaper articles, A Social History of Murder brings to life a neglected dimension of British social history in a completely new and exciting way.
©2011 Judith Flanders (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"It is a world explored with much wit and insight…Flanders is excellent…It’s a rich mix [and]…fluently written…It has every chance of becoming a bestseller."(Sunday Telegraph)
It's difficult to review this book because nothing about it grabbed me, but I have no objective criticism of it. It is true to its title, and is indeed an excellent history of murder and how it was investigated, reported, 'solved', and punished in Victorian times. There are interesting cases and interesting characters and the book is well constructed and well written. Perhaps my inability to get involved stems from the fact that I find the primitive policing methods and prejudices of bygone eras a bit boring (and disturbing) compared with modern investigative and forensic techniques. The book is very competently read, although it seemed to me that the soft voice of the narrator would have been better suited to a romance or novel than a hard-hitting book about murder. Then again, that's subjective and not a valid criticism.
"How we once lived"
There's a wealth of background histrical research behind this book. It's well-read and has touches of levity. It's essentially a string of murder cases, with the "facts" compared/contrasted with contemporary newspaper, theatical and other opinion. The contrast between how things were done "then" and "now is highlighted. I would have welcomed some occasional editing and a little more overview to provide a chronological context for the "set piece" cases. That said, this is a book that will provide fresh material and insights for both the historian and the literary scholar.
This is a competently read version of the bestselling book. It is essentially a string of tales recounting murders and their treatment in the media during the Victorian era, some familiar (Murder in the Red Barn, Jack the Ripper).
Its strength lies in it's episodic nature allowing the listener to dip in and out without losing the thread.
Absolutely brilliant book, informative, knowledgable and interesting :) I've listened to this book at least 20 times and enjoyed every one.
The detail and facts!
I am generally not much of a non-fiction reader (or listener) and I chose this book purely by chance after going through a few months of reading murder/crime/mystery novels.
The author didn't shrink back from the facts of the cases or the methods of execution etc used in punishing murders.
I found the narrators voice pleasant to listen to.
I loved the comments that were included from the famous people of the day. There were letters from Wilkie Collins, Charles Dicken and many more on crimes of the time and executions they may have witnessed.
I found it fascinating when it was revealed how many of the cases of the times made it into their works as passing references and sometimes as more.
I did find some bits of the audio a little confusing as references would be made to past cases and I would spend the next five minutes trying to remember just what had happened with that one.
A truly fascinating listen on the justice (and not so just in some cases) system of old.
"Murder Victorian Style"
This is a well written documentary of murders from a bygone age. Stories of how murderers were found pre forensic science. How murderers even if they had committed suicide were dealt with. Fascinating insight of how people reacted to crime.
My favorite listen yet. Judith Flanders seamlessly meshes literature, theatre, history and crime - all in fascinating detail and with a tongue in cheek humour which is delightful. Lose yourself in the dark psyche of nineteenth century Britain, wonderfully brought to life in the melodious voice of Janice McKenzie. I never tire of listening to it.
This audiobook was fascinating. The amount of research that must have gone into it was mindblowing - as was some of the antics of 19th century judges and 'journalists'.
An Impressive amount of research has gone into this book. However, although the narrator's voice in some respects is ideal to recount details of Victorian murder, I struggled with the delivery: case ran into case into further case with no oral signpost to distinguish between them. I found I was easily distracted, had to go back many times only to be none the wiser afterwards. I began to wonder what the point of the book was, but a good - if short - conclusion confirmed its merits. The chapter breaks in the recording are very poor.
"From the gutter to the gallows"
This book is well-researched and full of 'true-life' crimes! It manages to bring to life a by-gone age where people were just like us full of jealousy, love, spite and greed but where people had a profoundly different mind-set concerning attitudes to crime. The author explains this very well especially in the writing on infanticide. By focusing on this one aspect of life the author brings to life a much broader spectrum of life in Victorian times. Indirectly it also shows the 'development' of the gutter press.
"Fascinating account of crime"
This book looks at the role of the murder and how it influenced a society, from the popularisation of newspapers to the roles of melodrama. Excellent narrator.
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