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.
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