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The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,485 ratings  ·  371 reviews
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, w ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published October 15th 2014 by Pegasus Books (first published September 12th 2013)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  2,485 ratings  ·  371 reviews


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Start your review of The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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.
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
...more
Kaethe Douglas
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Leah
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...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
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved it, and I adore Lucy Worsley.
Charlotte Holmans
Loved it! Brilliant brilliant brilliant!
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!
...more
Nicky
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Heather
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
Rinn
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
...more
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
...more
Jill Hutchinson
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
...more
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).
Jeanne
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a fun and informative read. I grew up on Golden Age detective novels, thanks to my mom being a huge fan. This filled in a lot of history and societal stuff that shaped the genre and notable authors. Another great October/Halloween read.
Mary
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
"The Art of the English Murder" was written as a companion to the television presentation of the same name by Lucy Worsley. I don't know if the show ran in the United States. In any case, I have not seen it. I was drawn to the book because I have enjoyed Lucy Worsley's book "If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home". Ms. Worsley is a historian and Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces in Britain.
I was intrigued by the complete title, but I think I expected a different kind of book. It cove
...more
Amber Scaife
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it
A history of murder in the British imagination, essentially. Worsley looks at a handful of famous, actual murders in England and parallels those with an analysis of how murder mysteries, penny dreadfuls, and those beloved literary detectives developed in British literature.
I enjoyed this one in parts - especially Worsley's descriptions of the Detection Club, it's members, and their rituals - and I liked how she alternated between treatments of the actual murders' impact and the birth and growth
...more
Rebecca
Aug 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5

This is incredibly readable and definitely added a few titles to my reading list, but it gets a bit less strong as it goes on and Worsley lets herself fangirl a bit much over Dorothy L. Sayers. (Who deserves the love; it just doesn't quite work here.) I also really wanted her to make a connection between Golden Age whodunits and contemporary cozies, which sadly didn't happen.

Still, this is a good read for anyone interested in a breezy look at the mystery genre and a good jumping off point for
...more
Leah
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I was doing yard work at 7am this morning (it's mid-afternoon now and 100* #PAweather!) and wanted something to keep me entertained. I saw the audio was available...and listened to the entire thing in one go.
Brittany (Lady Red)
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
Ah Dr. Lucy. You are so wonderful, and I wish I could chat with you over a cup of tea about history and all its wonders.
But this book is the next best thing, a little more intimate than her documentaries.
Laurie Buchanan
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My husband and I listened to THE ART OF THE ENGLISH MURDER by Lucy Worsley on our drive from Boise, ID to Bellingham, WA. It's interesting (and terrifying) that humans are obsessed with the murder of other humans — the details; the how and why of it. This study focuses on the British style of murder and serial killings. A bit more neat and tidy than it's done across the pond in the United States. A compelling book that I highly recommend.
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