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A Very British Murder

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,697 ratings  ·  415 reviews
Murder - a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very British obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves?

In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which cause
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 12th 2013 by BBC Books
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  2,697 ratings  ·  415 reviews


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Julie
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley is a 2014 Pegasus Books publication.

A must read for British Crime Enthusiasts-

This non-fiction book outlines the history of British Crime- both real and fictional and their obsession with crime and murder. It’s not just the British, though. I happen to love, love, love British crime fiction. Two of my all- time favorite book series are British Mysteries- one historical
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Candi
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Sitting down after a hard day’s work, slippers on, guard lowered… for the last 200 years murder has been the topic to which readers turn for comfort and relaxation.”

I don’t read loads of non-fiction, but I’m constantly on the lookout for one that will thoroughly engage me while at the same time sneaking in a lesson or two. I don’t necessarily want to know that I’m being ‘taught’ something. I like it to sort of just happen! A couple of years ago I came across the name Lucy Worsley. Worsley is a
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Amy Sturgis
Parts One and Two of Lucy Worsley's book ("How to Enjoy a Murder" and "Enter the Detective") cover much of the same material I do when teaching my graduate courses "The Gothic Tradition" and "Sherlock, Science, and Ratiocination." While the information presented wasn't new to me, I appreciated the excellent organization and thoroughness of Worsley's investigation. About the time I would think, for example, "Next up should be the Road Hill House Murder and its influence on novels like The Moonsto ...more
Susan
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book has been written to accompany a television series of the same name and does, as a consequence jump around a little in subject matter. The book begins and ends with discussion of an essay - the first being, "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" by Thomas De Quincey and finishes with an appraisal of "The Decline of the English Murder" by George Orwell. This is not really about crime, as such, although many crimes are discussed - it is about how, especially since the nineteenth c ...more
Melora
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick, entertaining history of English murder as popular entertainment. The author, Lucy Worsley, takes as the beginning of the presentation of murder packaged for public consumption the essay of Thomas De Quincey, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, 1827. She traces the popular appreciation of murder from here on through Madame Tussaud's Waxworks; the “Penny Blood” booklet; Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins; the Ballad (and puppet show) of Maria Marten; the cases of Dr. William Pa ...more
Pam Baddeley
This is the second of this author's works I have read. She has an easy to read style with a slight quirkiness, reminiscent of her presentation style on TV. I haven't seen the TV programme/series on which this book was based, but can envisage it from the structure of this book and the general style in which it comes across.

I was surprised initially by the fact that the first few chapters were about real life murders a couple of centuries ago and the reporting of such in the news sheets of the day
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Jo Chambers
This book formed the basis of a short TV series presented by Lucy on the history of the British crime novel. Lucy Worsley is one of my favourite historians, she is always so enthusiastic and engaging, with a wonderful sense of humour and great insight. The book traces the development of the British crime novel from its beginnings in the Georgian Sensation novels and fascination with real life crimes, through the Victorian crime novels -Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, and into the Golden Age ...more
Margaret
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent look at the English attitude to murder, both real and fictional.

Some lovely background on the Detection Club.

Learned some very interesting little pieces of trivia like the fact that E. W. Hornung, the creator of the gentleman thief, Raffles, was the brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Well worth a read by anyone interested in crime and the golden age of detective fiction.
Lori Keeton
The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley is written to accompany a BBC television series on which she is a presenter. Her research brought about a written version which provides a plethora of information regarding the British interest in the idea of murder. The fact that the British enjoyed and couldn’t get enough of murder is outlined and discussed by Worsley but not meant to be an encompassing book on crime itself. Several high interest and notorious crimes are highlighted throughout and ...more
Bettie


Description: Murder - a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nationwide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the
...more
Leslie
This is a print companion to a TV series which was shown in the US on PBS. I will watch / read anything from Lucy Worsley.

The title is a bit misleading because the author actually begins long before Jack walked the streets of Whitechapel. We get a bit of history of policing, punishment and the horrific Regency murders, Ratcliff Highway murders https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratclif....

It is quiet interesting to read about the evolution of the mystery novel and the Penny Dreadful. This is a book
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Michaela
An easy and quick read, but beware of spoilers in chapters 14ff and 22, if you haven´t read the novels mentioned there!
Kaethe Douglas
How did we come to a place where crime is entertainment? It's a really good question. Short answer: as the odds of certain risks (murder) go down, fascination with it goes up. Well, Worsley wrote a whole book explaining it better that that, and a very entertaining book it is, tracing the rise of newspapers, fictional detectives, the golden age of crime writing. I particularly enjoy the history of policing and detection, but it's all good.

Library copy
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Leah
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
From melodrama to noir...

Lucy Worsley has set out to trace the roots of the British obsession with murder – as consumers, rather than participants. She makes the case that the fascination with murder corresponded to the increasing urbanisation of Britain during the nineteenth century which, because neighbours no longer knew each other as they had done in a more rural age, meant that murders could be much harder to detect. And what could be more thrilling than knowing that a murderer might be on
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Caidyn (he/him/his)
3.5

While this was meticulously researched, the book really didn't pull through like I wanted. I think the author should have kept out the "From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock" part of the title. Why? Because Jack the Ripper was mentioned in passing, Sherlock Holmes got maybe 10 minutes of material, and Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock were more after mentions.

Really, this was about murder and the Victorian times. How it evolved from the impoverish
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Jill Hutchinson
I wasn't sure exactly where this book was going when I first started it since the way the information is presented is rather confusing. It appeared to be short chapters on famous Victorian murders but suddenly morphed into what the Victorian reader trends were regarding murders and the reporting thereof. Once that was established, the author discussed the various authors, types of reporting (broadsides, graphic "yellow books" etc.) and the changes in reading tastes of the not so staid Victorians ...more
Tweedledum
Lucy Worsley romps through 100 years of detective fiction with typical enthusiasm and energy. The first half of the book was much more detailed than the second which felt rather rushed, nevertheless I enjoyed Worsley's potted history being a fan of crime fiction and found that there were many ideas new to me. The ending felt rather abrupt as though Worsley had run out of time to write more but overall I found that the book was quite a page turner in it's own right and made me want to revisit man ...more
Natalia
I absolutely loved it, and I adore Lucy Worsley.
Charlotte Holmans
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Brilliant brilliant brilliant!
Elizabeth A.G.
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting exploration into the fascination of the English with murder and real life crime and of the development of the mystery genre in English literature. Worsley reveals how real-life crimes led to a type of public, obsessive fascination and a form of national entertainment that were eventually the inspirations for novels, plays, and other artistic works. She credits the early English author, Thomas De Quincey, for postulating the idea of "murder as a performance that raised exp ...more
Ghost of the Library
I admit, I got myself this one totally on account of the juicy title!...and the fact it's Lucy writing :)
That part of me that enjoys a good scary bloody movie was probably disappointed that the gore factor was subtle in here, but the lover of English History/Literature enjoyed her read and the many reading tips tremendously!
Lucy is a one kind mix of scholar/geek/nerd + person that can actually connect with her reader (or viewer), making any trip of the mind we might take with her a lot of fun!
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Nicky
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A Very British Murder is an extremely readable, sometimes gossipy survey of the development of crime/mystery literature in Britain, up to the Golden Age of Sayers and Christie. It examines why people loved a good murder story, and what kind of murder story they wanted, while also reflecting on some of the real murders that occurred and the anxieties surrounding them.

I especially enjoyed Worsley’s sympathy for Sayers and Christie, and her defence of Gaudy Night against a male critic’s boredom abo
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Christine
This isn’t quite as good as the Judith Flanders book which Worsley does draw on. That said, however, it is either a good companion volume or a good place to start depending on which order you are reading them in. In fact, if the Flanders’ book looks too daunting, this one, shorter, is good enough to be read in lieu of.
If you have read the Flanders book, there is supplemental information here, and while Worsley does focus on more of the cases, since she is focusing on fewer, there is more inform
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Ann T
Started this not knowing what I was getting myself into. But I enjoyed the historical aspect of early crime writers and how/where they got many of their stories and/or what inspired them to write crime, murder, horror, spy, and suspenseful thrillers including writers as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and James Bond author Ian Fleming, among so many others. I love crime novels, true crime novels, mystery, and spy novels, especially with suspense and thrills. ...more
Heather
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought it was interesting to learn about some of the most sensational murder cases in England. They shaped people’s expectations of what they wanted in crime books, and gradually this led to the golden age of detective fiction followed by thrillers and suspense. I especially enjoyed learning how the social status of detectives changed, and because they began as sort of lower class individuals it gave rise to the amateur sleuth, Marple, Wimsey, Holmes and the like.
Diana
I listened to this after watching the television shows of the same name. Parts of the book dragged, especially the early parts where Worsley was discussing how interested Britains were in current crimes and how that eventually turned into a love of fictional crime stories. It was interesting but not something I'll listen to or read again. ...more
Rinn
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

Despite not having seen the accompanying television series, I pretty much proved Lucy Worsley’s point when I was drawn to this book because of the title. A tale of how the British public have been obsessed with the idea of murder, particularly in the past three hundred years or so, it’s actually quite a lot more than that. Covering the development of the police force, the
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Yvonne
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, audio-book
This book was an incredibly comprehensible and enjoyable history of murder as a form of entertainment in England. It covered multiple eras and the changes brought to science and society when it came to murder. Just as the author of the book took great pleasure in exploring these past horrors I found a great pleasure in learning about them.

The book begins by exploring the beginnings of murder as a form of both entertainment and fear as it came closer and closer to becoming an unpredictable but e
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Deanne
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimethriller
Interesting history of British crime, from the regency through to the modern crime stories. Lucy Worsley starts with the Ratcliffe highway murders and how they and subsequent killers and their victims affected crime fiction. Not just novels, but plays as well.
There are the sensation novels, detective novels with professional police and the golden age, with amateur detectives.Worsley covers some of the most well known books and authors, and makes me want to sit in a comfy chair by a fire with a
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Melissa
A fun, light overview of the rise of crime and detective fiction and how murder cases became media sensations from Regency to interwar Britain. Lucy Worsley is a fun writer and I’d like to see the TV special developed at the same time as the book (the book does bounce around a bit because of this).
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I was born in Reading (not great, but it could have been Slough), studied Ancient and Modern History at New College, Oxford, and I've got a PhD in art history from the University of Sussex.

My first job after leaving college was at a crazy but wonderful historic house called Milton Manor in Oxfordshire. Here I would give guided tours, occasionally feed the llamas, and look for important pieces of p
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