The Invention of Murder (CBR6 #60)

It’s been ten days since I put this book down. I haven’t really figured out what to say about The Invention of Murder, since it wasn’t really what I was looking for as far as research and was a bit too slow for a pleasure read, but it deserves to be reviewed, and I really wanted to make 60 reviews.

So here we are.

This is an interesting study of how the 19th century laid the groundwork for our own ‘ripped from the headlines’ world. Judith Flanders chronicles the major murder headlines of the Victorian Age, and shows how the newspapers and writers of the penny dreadfuls (including my non-nemesis Charles Dickens) chronicled the stories in the public eye.

So I think you should make the decision for yourself about whether or not to read this one. Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

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’ 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 in Great Britain.  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

With this I’ve taken a break from reading, and will start fresh after the new year for CBR7.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.


About Katie

Museum educator, caffiene junkie, book lover, student of history, overall goofball.

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