The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection, Paperback Book

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


'We are a trading community, a commercial people. Murder is doubtless a very shocking offence, nevertheless as what is done is not to be undone, let us make our money out of it.' Punch Murder in the 19th century was rare.

But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous - transformed into novels, into broadsides and ballads, into theatre and melodrama and opera - even into puppet shows and performing dog-acts.

In this meticulously researched and compelling book, Judith Flanders - author of 'The Victorian House' - retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder - both famous and obscure.

From the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedies of the murdered Marr family in London's East End, Burke and Hare and their bodysnatching business in Edinburgh, and Greenacre who transported his dismembered fiancee around town by omnibus.

With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad and the dangerous to know, 'The Invention of Murder' is both a gripping tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780007248896

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Sub-titled 'How The Victorians Revelled In Death And Detection And Created Modern Crime' this book is of great importance to readers of both Crime Fiction and of Criminology. Judith Flanders is a fine writer who brings readability and (surprisingly,given the grim subject matter) a certain amount of humour to this account. Beginning with 'The Radcliffe Highway murders of 1811 and ending with the 'Jack the Ripper' killings in 1888,they cover some 50 murders of which only one remains unsolved,that of 'The Ripper'. In the course of the book,and dovetailing neatly with the factual murders,many broadsheets,plays and fiction (both lurid and classic) are discussed.In short,I cannot praise it enough.

Review by

An examination of how the murder genre started to gain traction in the Victorian era. It looks at the reporting of murders and how they both fed each other. How the views of the murders and snippets from these murders became part of fiction and fed other genres. I found it an interesting read, full of gruesome details of a variety of murders and executions.Interesting, traces some of the roots of modern crime fiction, but a bit repetitive occasionally.

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