Friday, March 13, 2015

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Dead and Detection and Created Modern Crime


Today's nonfiction post is about The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Dead and Detection and Created Modern Crime by Judith Flanders. It is 556 pages long including notes and is published by Thomas Dunne Books. The cover is black with a skull and the title in white. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history, crime, and well written books. There is some mild language, talk of sex, and detailed violence. Because of the tone of the book adults would get the most enjoyment out of this book. The story is told in third person with first person letters and dairies for added depth. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- 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 founder of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickins's Inspector Bucket, the first fictional detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and ,ultimately, even P. D. James and Patricia Cornwall.
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, a man who transported his dismembered fiancee around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare's body-snatching 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 multifaceted 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.

Review- This is one of the best written nonfiction books I have ever read. This could have been dry or too scholarly but instead it is a fantastic read. It is scholarly but not over-overwhelmingly so. The footnotes are interesting and at times funny. The notes in the back are just for additional reading if that is something you want to do. Flanders takes the reader from the beginnings of the justice system in England and talks about how it changed and why. This leads the reader to how policing, crime, and justice have changed and why. Flanders gives us a very insightful and interesting read about one of the most popular genres in writing. She talks about the beginnings of the detective story and how far we have come in 100 years. This book is not for the faint of heart. Flanders does not spare details about how the criminals were treated or about the murders themselves. After reading this the next time I hear someone complaining about more better things were in the past I have a few new choice things to tell them about the good old days and one of them including a human scalp wallet.

I give this book a Five stars out of Five. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.