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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian entertainment
I got this as a Christmas present so don't know why Amazon have waited until the new year to release this book. I heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in Victoriana, crime fiction or non-fiction, or anyone looking for an entertaining and sometimes surprisingly shocking read. The author shows how the burgeoning Victorian press was initially responsible for...
Published on 6 Jan 2011 by Big Jim

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, not up to her usual standard...
This book sets out to show explore the Victorian attitude to murder and how it helped to create and shape the fledgling police and detective forces. It describes how often the Victorians viewed the murder as simultaneously something dreadful and entertaining at the same time - exemplified by the massive crowds that would turn out to witness a hanging, the broadsides and...
Published on 29 Oct 2011 by C. Ball


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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian entertainment, 6 Jan 2011
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
I got this as a Christmas present so don't know why Amazon have waited until the new year to release this book. I heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in Victoriana, crime fiction or non-fiction, or anyone looking for an entertaining and sometimes surprisingly shocking read. The author shows how the burgeoning Victorian press was initially responsible for feeding the salacious appetite for "murder most foul" which in turn led to public outcries and fears (many statistically unfounded) over rising crime, this in turn leading to the formation of the Police Service and a veritable security "industry". She also describes how authors and indeed publishers saw a new opening in the market for crime, particularly murder, fiction and were not slow in filling the gap. I must say that I was most interested in the lurid extracts from the many newspapers and periodicals of the day which didn't pull any punches in descriptions that would shock today's readers. I guess this book is aimed at readers who enjoyed the Suspicions of Mr Whicher and if only half as many who bought that book buy this one then this book will be a success. Don't expect deep psychological insight or insightful sociological explanations in this book but do expect a rollicking good read, as the saying goes.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, not up to her usual standard..., 29 Oct 2011
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This book sets out to show explore the Victorian attitude to murder and how it helped to create and shape the fledgling police and detective forces. It describes how often the Victorians viewed the murder as simultaneously something dreadful and entertaining at the same time - exemplified by the massive crowds that would turn out to witness a hanging, the broadsides and songs on the subjects that were so popular, the true-life crime turned into plays and novels, the massive interest in the press.

It's quite comprehensive, almost too so. I have to confess with being a little disappointed with this book. I've read other of Judith Flanders' books and found them very interesting, but this I found a little tedious in places, which is a surprise considering the subject matter. Perhaps there is a thing as just too many murders? Somewhere along the way it loses something, and I found myself struggling to finish it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Victorian Melodrama: a Treasure Trove!, 7 Jun 2011
By 
Sentinel (Essex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
Bought this on the strength of some very complimentary newspaper reviews, and discovered a thoroughly-researched, heavily-evidenced study of murder and its coverage in the media of the time, linked to the public's insatiable appetite for scandal and gore (interesting how little things change!). Flanders meticulous study works methodically through how murder was exploited to line the pockets of newspaper hacks,the income of magazines, souvenir sellers, the theatre, Madame Tussaud's, and to influence the Victorian novel, and give rise to the 'crime novel', with both Wilkie Collins, Dickens and many others re-working real-life characters into the murderers and victims of their books.

At the same time Flanders charts the impact on the police force of the time, from its hotly debated establishment as a 'preventative measure', then through its disjointed local jurisdiction which inhibited any notion of criminal pursuit, to its development as a detection agency, using the new-fangled wonders of the telegraph to track down their quarry. Endless murders are examined, and the appalling nature of the court system, and the general absence of a defence counsel, which meant innocent characters were condemned to the gallows, while those with money (and the right social class) walked free. The bias and complacency exhibited by judges, doctors and coroners alike truly make the blood run cold.

I found this well written, with the occasional glimpses of humour necessary to leaven some of the horrific injustices revealed. The illustrations (posters, papers, handbills, cartoons, souvenirs) reveal the extraordinary and greatly exaggerated depiction of these events, which caused understandable waves of panic and insecurity amongst predominantly middle and upper class households, and provoked 'knee-jerk' legislative reactions as a consequence (sound familiar?). Clearly, the 'established order' felt threatened by both the rate of social change, and the way in which murder increasingly seemed to respect no social order at all. Unlike some other reviewers, I found this provided some fascinating sociological insights, even if some were provided indirectly or inference.

This is a substantial tome, and should not be considered 'light reading', given the mass of information contained within the main text, let alone the copious notes and references. Perhaps my one reservation is that there are rather too many examples given, and this introduces a sense of repetition and 'sensory overload' which can dull the attention span at times. Anyone with an interest in the development of the modern crime novel, or the Victorian social order, or the history of policing and the court system, or the reciprocal relationship between the media and public spectacle, is likely to find this fascinating. In fact, anyone with a curious mind at all, which I feel is high praise indeed for a book which must have been a labour of love. Strongly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive and exhausting, 13 Mar 2011
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This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

One is at first almost bowled over by the amount of what seems like meticulous research, careful notes and a fairly good index. But all the old favourites are there, The Ratcliffe Highway murders, Kent, Corder etc. Nothing very new for any but the young. Like Judith Flanders' other books (A Circle of Sisters being the exception for me) there is just too much of it. Even so, Patrick Watson was Physician-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria in Scotland and Heron was his second, not his first, name. And if Conan Doyle did take the name of his detective from anyone connected with cricket it was two men (Sherwin and Shacklock)not one. Nit-picking maybe, but inevitable given the avalanche of information contained here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, diverting, but not memorable., 14 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
This is a richly enjoyable compendium of Victorian murder. She is particularly good at drawing together real murder cases and tracing their after lives on the stage or in fiction (especially Dickens and Collins). It's finely illustrated and well presented. Where it falls short is that this is not really history, in so far as there isn't really an argument (as the subtitle suggests). The various accounts, while fascinating in themselves, don't add up to 'a book' in the same way that her previous work has (especially The Victorian House and Circle of Sisters). Well researched and diverting though not perhaps as memorable as her other work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't live up to expectations, 22 May 2012
Judith Flanders obviously knows her stuff as evidenced by the extensive notes and bibliography, but I felt the content could have done with some editing down. The formula of telling us about a case and then detailing popular reaction, what the press printed, how it was reflected in the penny dreadfuls and novels of the time and finally stage productions, became rather tedious. There were flashes of brilliance and I enjoyed her witty asides, but they were too rare for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and illuminating....., 9 Feb 2012
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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Superb research has gone into this very readable account of how crime (especially murder) became almost an entertainment in the 19th century. There had been murders committed since time immemorial but the combination of newspapers, theatre, street hawkers and the printing press brought about a cultural shift in people's attitudes.

In describing court trials of the time we are told that the law did not necessarily permit the accused to know what the prosecution case would be. Neither was the defendant expected to have a defence counsel unless he was of some means. It was felt that the prosecution case would usually be so good that any defence was superfluous! Murder trials may only take a very short time and juries often came up with a guilty verdict in minutes. The only punishment for murder was hanging which normally took place within 48 hours.

Murder trials and executions became the soap operas of their day. Newspapers and broadsheets produced every detail imaginable for the eager readers. In their rush to judgement the unfettered press wrote what they thought their readers wanted rather than the truth. Books, plays and poetry were inspired by real life crime -but always much elaborated on. Female victims were usually portrayed as innocent maids seduced by blackguards.

Judith Flanders packs a lot into the (almost) 500 pages. She is particularly good on the rise of the professional detectives, the use of expert witnesses and the public's disillusionment in them. The birth and rise of the detective novel is also well covered and how Dickens, Eliot, Collins etc were inspired by contemporary trials.

An excellent and illuminating read. But a word of warning - if you are considering murder by poisoning then make sure you buy the poison yourself rather than send anyone else. It's amazing how many times a murderer was accused because of this (literally) fatal mistake!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Devil in the Detail, 20 Dec 2011
By 
This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
Having enjoyed 'The Victorian House' I bought copies of 'Consuming Passions' and 'The Invention of Murder' and was disappointed with both, for similar reasons. Other reviewers of both books have made the points, so I'll not repeat them at length, but this reads like a compendium of crimes, or more accurately the 19th Century reporting and replaying of crimes for public consumption, and while there are nuggets of fascinating detail, the narrative is disjointed enough to make it a bit of a slog to read. Ms Flanders is clearly immersed in her subject, but so much so that she fails to make it as engaging as she might. Almost every study of Victorian murders portrays it as a distinctive era for them and links them to coverage in the press and elsewhere, so sadly this adds less to the subject than I expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 14 July 2011
By 
S. Pomfrett - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
Judith Flanders has written a comprehensive and beautifully paced account of the Victorian media's obsession with murder and gore, which has brilliant parallels with today's slightly shady media! It's a great account of how stories of murder fuelled a growing newspaper industry and vice versa. Flanders then details how these fuelled a craze for murder-inspired theatrical shows. It seems that uptight Victorians off all classes loved a juicy story.

Flanders has written about her subject with a gentle wit and excellent sources. Her passion for her work clearly shines through and she doesn't patronise her readers. The only negative I can think of is that some of the passages are quite long and this is a hefty old book, so not a holiday read in the hardback format.

This is a brilliant book for anyone who is interested in Victorian crime and media; it's not a straightforward true crime read and is meticulously researched. I really enjoyed it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 28 Feb 2011
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This review is from: The Invention of Murder (Hardcover)
Far too much about the theatres and newspapers, and far too little about the actual events. I found the writing style trite and repetitive. Not as good as I was expecting and nowhere near as good as it could have been.
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The Invention of Murder
The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders (Hardcover - 6 Jan 2011)
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