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

3.4  ·  Rating Details ·  1,681 Ratings  ·  276 Reviews
This text is about 19th-century Britain's fascination with good quality murder. Murder during this period was ubiquitous - not necessarily in quantity but in quality. This was the era of penny-bloods, early crime fiction and melodramas for the masses. It was a time when murder and entertainment were firmly entwined.
Hardcover, 556 pages
Published November 18th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 6th 2011)
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Bill  Kerwin

Judith Flanders has an extensive knowledge of 19th century English literature and popular culture, and she demonstrates how actual 19th Century murders and their transmuted and distorted recreations in newspaper coverage, broadside ballads, working class drama and "penny-dreadful" fiction, helped both to reflect and to forge what today we think of as the necessary accoutrements of crime: the modern police force, the private detective, the forensic investigation. Further, she shows how these crim
May 01, 2015 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I’m a true crime buff, though I hesitate to admit this. At best it makes me creepy, the kind of person you warily back away from at parties, lest you get stuck in a corner. At worst it makes me a cop in the media-driven exploitation machine, which turns the tragic into spectacle, and whips private pain into a public frenzy.

Of course, I’m not the only one. The media does not act in a vacuum. There wouldn’t be a constant stream of sensationalized crime stories if there wasn’t a large and avid aud
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
This was a impulsive Audible download when it first came out, and I've been doggedly listening to it in the mornings getting ready for work. Doggedly gives you a clue as it how I feel about it. There were times when I was incredibly close to defeat. Not because the subject isn't interesting but because the telling was very formulaic.

First there is the outline plot of a seminal murder, followed by a discussion of how it impacted in popular media and culture. Quite often the latter becomes a mono
Oct 06, 2013 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book needs to go back to the editor. The chapters were too long and the thesis was lost or never quite articulated. I felt like I was reading a masters thesis and not a book for popular audience. The author used the same type of examples in many chapters. By the third or forth chapter, I could expect excepts from newspapers that where widely in accurate, example of plays produced on the cases examine, and a look at the penny novels, broadsides, and ballads produced for the masses. The quest ...more
May 15, 2012 Rose rated it it was amazing
Although the title suggests otherwise, the Victorians did not invent murder. They were merely the first to make it profitable.

As the eighteenth century morphed into the nineteenth, public discussion of homicide in Great Britain shifted from the pulpits to the press, inspiring stage dramas and best-selling ‘penny dreadfuls’. No one was immune to the allure: the nobility attended murder trials as faithfully as the working classes, executions were witnessed by stadium-sized crowds, and literary gia
Emma Sea
Apr 24, 2013 Emma Sea rated it liked it
The subtitle should be "how Victorians created modern sensationalist media," rather than crime.

Enjoyable, but to some extent a lot of the book was the same theme over and over again: acusations of crimes used to reinforce class and gender divisions. I felt sad most of the time, reading about women and men long executed, who had clearly commited no crime, but had the weight of the Victorian legal system against them.

This made it a slightly ponderous read. I think about half the length could have
Sep 17, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok
Disappointing. This book demonstrates that a lack of organization, discpline and analysis can wreck a seemingly intersting topic. The chapter designations were completely irrelevant, as every chapter followed the same pattern: description of some murders and their trial transcripts and then a summary of how the murder played out in pop culture.

Long before Law and Order, entertainment was "ripped from the headlines."
Aug 07, 2013 lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very dry. I tried to read the first 30 pages and got bored. I tried to skim the next 50 pages and got even more bored. I was excited to read this book but it was big let-down. Other books that are similar (but better) are The Beautiful Cigar Girl by Daniel Stashower, and The Suspicions of Mr. Which by Kate Summerscale.
Feb 27, 2012 F.R. rated it liked it
MRS FLANDERS’ new book cat’logues the notorious rogues and vill’ans of the great VICTORIAN AGE. Recoil at such fiendish devil’ry as that committed by MESSRS BURKE & HARE, WAINEWRIGHT and the remorseless poisoner PALMER. Witness again the lamentable and notorious crimes of the sin-ful women, MADELINE SMITH and ELIZA FENNING. Embark on a colour-ful and sensational tour of BRUTALITY and EVIL, culminating in the most cruel and vicious MURDERER of the AGE, the unspeakable JACK THE RIPPER!

(I do li
May 01, 2013 ☕Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book detailing various murders during the Victorian period and how they were reflected in the media of the day. It was interesting to read about the evolution of public attitudes towards violent crime and the concurrent changes in media, from the penny dreadfuls of the early 1800s through the emergence of true detective fiction. I would be interested to read an analogous work following the trends through the 20th century. One warning I will issue is that if you are planning ...more
This is one of those books that you read that gives you lists of more books to read.
Flanders’ book is an analysis of how Victorian Society viewed murdered, as mostly seen in the literature (both high and low) of the time as well as in the media. She traces not only the rimes but the impact.
It’s a pretty compelling read not only for the information it contains about the books of the time. Among other things she traces the development of infanticide as a crime, linking the change in law to the c
Mar 28, 2015 Shauna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is incredibly well-researched, which is both a positive and a negative. On one side, the amount of information made for lots of gory details, which certainly satisfied my curiosity. But on the other, the book was bogged down in detail. I don't need to know the plot of every single stage adaptation based on a murder, nor do I need to know what critics said about these adaptations.

There were a few times when the author teased us with something interesting, only to delve into another topi
Lauren Albert
The main problem with this book is its repetitiveness. Over and over again you get:

1. The murder. The main details as known
2. The hunt for the murderer(s) with all of the failures of those searching
3. The press/writers--the money made, the circulations increased, the story altered as desired.
4. The trial of the accused--miscarriages of justice (bias, failure to present counter evidence, defendant lacking defense attorney, etc.)
5. The result of trial
6. The public opinion regarding the trial and t
Kevin McAllister
You'd think a book titled The invention of Murder couldn't be boring.Sadly, that wasn't the case with this book. The author discussed over 50 murders that took place during 19th century Great Britain. And while the descriptions of the murders themselves were interesting, it was the repetitive way the author then went on to describe how these murders were covered by newspapers, and then turned into works of fiction or plays. We were given, again and again. brief summaries of numerous books and pl ...more
Very detailed book about a fascinating period in England. I wish to read it again because it was so fascinating and the level of research and information presented takes diligence to absorb thoroughly.
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Courtney Joshua
The book was not what I'd anticipated. Though it's well-written and well-researched, the thesis is stated early on and then apparently forgotten, never to be revived or even given a vague nod of acknowledgement. I wasn't interested in 600 pages of painstakingly researched details of gruesome murders, but in the Victorian preoccupation with death/murder and the factors that influenced the creation of the detective story genre. Ah well.
Oct 16, 2012 Maldemal rated it it was amazing
I am only about 100 pages into this one, but it is wonderful. I've read one of her other books before, but I think I'll have to read them all. Packed with facts, very interesting and extremely funny. I read it at lunch and have a hard time explaining to my colleagues why I'm giggling. "Oh, I just find this book very funny. It's about... er... murder..?"
Dec 29, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, dnf
This is a DNF for me. I have tried to read this all month, & I just can't give it any more time. It's too dry; it's too detailed; it gets lost in its labyrinth of facts. It was also full of possibility, which kept me reading. But it's not enough.
Sep 13, 2015 Stephen rated it it was ok
just couldn't get into this book. nice idea but felt was too detailed and felt like a chore to get to the end of this book
Hestia Sky

(Review to come, probably during the weekend)
Clare Fitzgerald
Oct 21, 2013 Clare Fitzgerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not too long ago, I went into Porter Square Books with the intention of not necessarily buying any books (I was there for an Event and I was very, very broke), but then I saw a book that called to me, and seemed to have been written for the express purpose of tempting me into buying it no matter how much I couldn’t afford to. It was even in hardcover! A beautiful, creepy black hardcover.
The book was The Invention of Murder How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Cri
Mar 24, 2017 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-stars
Took me forever to read but it was interesting. Recommended to anyone who is interested in media, especially media's portrayal of death and murder.
May 19, 2013 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, clearly this is a subject based book. Like Roach it explores some of the more darker, unique, and weird (not as much as Roach though) parts of society/history/life... etc. Unlike roach though this one takes a more serious tone. There is not many laughs (unless you are as morbid as me), but that makes sense, since i felt this one was more true to background/history/sociology.

There is everything for the wickedly morbid person here, and even the slightly disturbed history buff. Especially welc
Katherine Addison
Ignore the pretentious title (and the doubly pretentious sub-title): nowhere in her argument does Flanders claim that the Victorians "invented" murder, nor that they "created modern crime." The Invention of Murder is half an overview of the famous murders of the nineteenth century in England, from the Ratcliffe Highway murders (The Maul And The Pear Tree) to Jack the Ripper (The Complete History of Jack the Ripper). (Although, oddly, Charles Bravo (Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in V ...more
Murder is a most foul practice, and it feels like these days you can't turn on the TV or log into (if you're me that is) without seeing something about murder. Be it a news report or something to entertain us, murder seems to be on our collective brains. Has it always been this way? Well, no, not always. But it has been this way since the Victorian Era. OH THE VICTORIAN ERA, a time that I love to read and learn about but a time I am overly thankful I did not live during. We can credit ( ...more
Aug 03, 2015 Kierah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flanders' book, The Invention of Murder, takes an interesting approach to talking about crime in the Victorian era. While there is plenty of social commentary mixed in, her primary angle is to look at the intersection of reality and fiction. How did attitudes toward murder change over this fairly long period of history? How did the journalistic and fictional treatment of crime reflect (and shape) contemporary attitudes toward said crime? If you're an amateur historian, this is all pretty excitin ...more
Charlie Hay
Aug 29, 2014 Charlie Hay rated it really liked it
The clue is in the name really. Judith Flanders gives an in-depth account of the invention of murder. How it became a tool for financial gain and revenge. Her anecdotes are dark but she tells them with such humour. I mean, this period in history was ridiculous. The more common murder became, the more popular it became with the masses. Not only did it get the killer riches but it also got them fame.

‘We are a trading community, a commercial people. Murder is doubtless a very shocking offence, nev
Jun 24, 2016 Eugenia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Victorian era is Flanders' forte and this book does not disappoint. This book is a guide-book to the famous murder crimes of the Victorian period and the society's reactions to them. Each chapter is structured in the same way-it opens with the details of a murder case, then follows the trial & the execution, then the society's response to the crime-invention of the police force, the Scotland Yard, the detective force,- and then how the crime played out the in pop-culture of the time-penny-dr ...more
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Mysteries & Crime...: The Invention of Murder 3 32 Aug 28, 2013 01:43PM  
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  • London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story
  • Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870
  • Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England
  • The Inheritor's Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science
  • Mad Mary Lamb: Lunacy and Murder in Literary London
  • The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work, and Play
  • The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder
  • The Victorian Underworld
  • The London Underworld in the Victorian Period: Authentic First-Person Accounts by Beggars, Thieves and Prostitutes
  • The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection
  • Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery
  • The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton: The First Domestic Goddess
  • The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York
  • The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of the Brides in the Bath
Judith Flanders was born in London, England, in 1959. She moved to Montreal, Canada, when she was two, and spent her childhood there, apart from a year in Israel in 1972, where she signally failed to master Hebrew.

After university, Judith returned to London and began working as an editor for various publishing houses. After this 17-year misstep, she began to write and in 2001 her first book, A Cir
More about Judith Flanders...

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“Well some are born to be hanged, and some are not; and many of those who are not hanged are much worse than those who are.” 2 likes
“It reinforces a sense of safety, even of pleasure, to know that murder is possible, just not here. At the start of the nineteenth century, it was easy to think of murder that way.” 0 likes
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