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Murder by Candlelight: The Gruesome Slayings Behind Our Romance with the Macabre

2.93  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Arguing that it is “less the quality of the crimes than the attitude of the age which determines the gruesomeness of its murders,” Michael Beran brings to life the ghastly ambiance of a vanished epoch, and gives us a terrifying glimpse of the horror beneath the seeming civility of the Victorian era.

In the early nineteenth century, a series of murders took place in and arou
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 15th 2015 by Pegasus
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2.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  317 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Subtitled, “The Gruesome Crimes Behind Our Romance With the Macabre,” this is a look at some real life murder cases between 1811-1837 (what he describes as the macabre, ‘Golden Age’ of murder); although the book actually takes us up to the time of Jack the Ripper in 1888. At times, the authors prose is a little flowery – he describes the era as the, “High Noon of Romanticism,” but somehow the style seems to suit the time he is writing about. These are murders of a time now vanished, although man ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
The following is an actual sentence that Mr. Beran wrote. His editors thought it must be included in the final version of this book.

"Like Viking princes after the slaughter-hell of battle, embracing drink and woman-flesh with ecstatic vehemence, or sailors on leave indulging themselves in a mad carouse, the evil-doers embrace their freshly recovered normality with an insane avidity."

If this is your thing, have at it.
BAM The Bibliomaniac
True Crime Commemoration # 19
Setting: Victorian England ( and the literature the crimes inspired)
nikkia neil
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Love the way Beran uses references to De Quincey the Opium Eater to explain how the romantics say the world. It makes me think about David Morrell at the end of Inspector of the Dead saying he read everything Quincey wrote to write the book. Its so insightful and in depth but easy to read that I didn't notice I stayed up all night reading the whole book.
Madison Rose
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
i think this book was amazing
such a great read
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I so rarely rate books I didn't finish, but let me give you this - the two stars is because the author obviously put in a lot of work into the research and references.

But this was one of the most obnoxiously pretentious, deeply tedious, self-congratulatory smug-ass books I've ever picked up in my entire life. If you like a hyper-intellectual cramming four ten-dollar words into every sentence to drive the point home that he's just that much more cultured than everybody else while simultaneously r
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Dry and occasionally boring. It wasn't awful and was a solid three stars until toward the end, when the author began insulting Mystery novels and their readers. I get it. You're an academic and your thoughts on murder during the 19th Century are intellectual and important. [/sarcasm] However, you are publishing a book on murder for the commercial market. Who the hell do you think your readers are going to be? Generally, they are going to have a lot of crossover with Mystery readers. Insulting th ...more
Sep 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Very disappointing. The author seemed to spend more time finding quotes to introduce the very short chapters than polishing the narrative. The unevenness of the writing reminded me of notes made for a term paper that were slapped down without a good edit. The background information had very little to do with the murders the book is supposedly about. I skipped many pages and finally gave up without finishing the book. For a better read with greater narrative impact, look to The Poisoner's Handboo ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
I found this author's writing to be tiresome. I did appreciate how he wrote in a way that matched some of the phrases from Victorian England, however I also found that he jumped around quite a bit. I enjoyed a lot of the subject matter, and how each murder was broken down and treated similarly to how it would be presented in a gothic novel. Yet even still it was not the book the summary of it led me to believe.
Peter Bradley
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Please give my review a helpful vote on Amazon -

Absolutely fascinating.

This book is essentially about English murder prior to 1850. The author examines several murders that qualified as the "Crime of the Century" when that concept was still new. The presentation of the story of the murders gives the reader insight into pre-Victorian society and culture.

The first murder involves a callous murder of a gambler by his fellow gamblers. The chief among the vil
This was a suprisingly quick read given the fact that much of the language dates back to the early 19th century. Very insightful as well.

If this proves one thing it is that violence is not necessarily multiplied by TV or the internet. It has always been there, we are just more aware of it. The cases that were picked highlighted this all the more since they often occured before the invention of the telegraph (not the newspaper in case anyone was wondering). Let alone telephones, radio, TV and com
Katherine Addison
So on the one hand this is a engaging and well-written discussion of (1) the murder of William Weare by John Thurtell, (2) the murder of Hannah Brown by James Greenacre, (3) the murder of Lord William Russell by Francois Courvoisier, and (4) the murders of the Marrs and the Williamsons by person or persons unknown.

On the other hand,

(1) The style is distinctly breezy, just barely this side of callous.
(2) Beran is possessed of a sort of more-recondite-than-thou hipsterism which I found intensely a
Nov 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Unlike The Art of the English Murder From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley, this is an author who does NOT enjoy a good Golden Age mystery. If *you* do, prepare to have your taste and your favorites insulted.
On the historical murders, however, he provides a fascinating examination of events.
You'll also learn stuff - like Ripper-esque murders were actually not uncommon but, because the whole serial killer concept/psychology wasn't identified yet, and the crimes weren't linked in the police and public minds, and the perpetrators were never identified let alone
Aug 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: true-crime, gave-up
Normally I would not even rate I book I could not finish but I really wanted to warn anyone else who might be mislead as I was by the dust jacket explanation of this book. I am generally not a book basher--I love some books that are utter trash and I always think to myself that as I am not a writer myself, I at least admire the ability to focus and research long enough to actually complete a book. I take issue with this book as it is something of a bait and switch. The blurbs on the jacket indic ...more
Stephanie Stennett
Jul 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Three and 1/2 stars maybe. Didn't tell me much I didn't already know. Author quite fancies himself. And prepare yourself, he wrote this with a pretentious eye toward 18 th cen style.
There are a few references I'll investigate- events or writings. Oddly enough, I recently got a copy of Sabine Baring-Gould's Book of Were-Wolves (p 198.)
Not entirely sure why he spends so much time on the murder of Lord Wm Russell, as the
Book's premise is what contemporaries such as Thomas De Quincey and Thomas Car
Aug 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
I rarely give out 1 star ratings in genres I tend to enjoy, but this was just an all-around bad book. The use of quotes within the text was some of the worst I've seen since high-school book reports where they are trying desperately to fluff the word count to get 3 pages. It was disconcerting and jarring. The narration when it came to quotes was also atrocious.

Actually, the whole narration was nearly as bad as the book. They were the perfect couple I suppose. I do believe the narrator might be
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
*received for free through Goodreads First Reads

Though I was interested and intrigued by the authors writing style, I found the inconsistent narrative distracting and I had a hard time determining if I was reading a story or a commentary on an era.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
You have to pay attention when reading this, or you will lose the thread and have no idea what's happening.
Bill Tyroler
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, history
The received wisdom that true crime stories are morality tales is neatly captured by this pronouncement at the very dawning of the genre in America: “Then, as now, readers were able both to participate vicariously in the horrible crime and to pronounce moral judgment upon it,” (The observation belongs to the academic, Laura Browder, and if the name’s vaguely familiar, it’s because she’s the granddaughter of CP’er Earl Browder.) It’s also said that the ge ...more
Elizabeth Jemar
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best nonfiction work I've read yet!
The writing style was easy to follow while his points were enticing enough to keep me reading. I couldn't put it down. As an aficionado of the Gothic, I found Beran's study quite fascinating. As he states: "It is less the quality of the crimes than the attitude of the age which determines the gruesomeness of its murders. . . . A history of the murders of an age will in its own way reveal as much of human nature." While the crimes themselves are interesting to
Laurel Schmitt
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I didn't find this book to be particularly enthralling. I thought Beran's discussions of the murders were interesting enough, but I wasn't particularly interested in his discussions of Carlyle or De Quincey. I guess I wasn't anticipating how much of this book would be about the literary figures who utilized these particular kinds of murders. For me, it read a bit like a scholarly paper that had been turned into a book.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It is interesting, though I didn't really start to enjoy the book until the second murder. I may have liked it better but I was listening to the audiobook version and the narrator... had weird... pauses... like he was... William.... Shatner... GAG! I might recommend to my friends that are into history and macabre.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I thought this book was interesting. Though I thought the last chapter was very unfocused, many crimes similar and leading up to the Jack the Ripper killings, but narratively lacking. Also, the author lost me in the last few pages, dumping on mystery novels and on those who read them. I thought that was unnecessary.
Bode  Cauthon
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic visit into the past exploring some of the more “gruesome” murders of the 19th century and how it inspired literary authors. Horrifying tales that bring the chills back into murder mysteries.
Juliana Gray
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This author is pretty good on the true crime cases, but I get that feeling that what he reeeeeeally wants to write about is Thomas DeQuincey, and this was just the sexiest way to package that analysis. Still, it was an interesting read.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stories need more portraits with peek holes.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Utterly forgettable - meandered all over the place. For such an interesting topic, it was really hard to pay attention. I only slogged my way through because I'm stubborn.
Brandon Hill
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Meh... didn't capture me.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Well researched as the book is I would have preferred more information about the murders and their effects on the time and less whining about how detective fiction has ruined everything.
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UCAS English 11 R...: October Reading Assignment 1 3 Oct 31, 2018 08:55PM  
  • Trials of Passion: Crimes Committed in the Name of Love and Madness
  • The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age
  • And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank
  • The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America
  • The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft,  and Detection
  • The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper
  • Jack the Ripper: The Casebook
  • Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes
  • The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime
  • Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England
  • The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
  • Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal
  • The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer: Anders Behring Breivik and the Threat of Terror in Plain Sight
  • They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper
  • The Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh's Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science Who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous Crimes
  • The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects
  • London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story
  • Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood