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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for lovers of crime and history!
This is a great read for anyone like me who loves crimes, history and books as Lucy Worsley traces the history of our interest in murder over the last two hundred years. Prior to that she states that everyone was far more concerned with the everyday battles to feed and clothe themselves but with the rise in literacy levels amongst the population murder became a source of...
Published 16 months ago by C. Bannister

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feels a little light
To be honest this was a book I ordered as I've always been fascinated with the British love of a murder story. Whilst I'm not saying that it's a good thing, throughout our history, since Jack the Ripper, we've always been fascinated to read about the real macabre events in real life trying to find out who has the not only the latest news but also to see what details have...
Published 19 months ago by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for lovers of crime and history!, 2 Jan. 2014
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: A Very British Murder (Hardcover)
This is a great read for anyone like me who loves crimes, history and books as Lucy Worsley traces the history of our interest in murder over the last two hundred years. Prior to that she states that everyone was far more concerned with the everyday battles to feed and clothe themselves but with the rise in literacy levels amongst the population murder became a source of entertainment.

In researching the national obsession with murder the author gives some interesting facts and figures, who would have thought two and a half million people bought the `authentic' memoirs of murderess Maria Manning in 1849? Charles Dickens went on to fictionalise Maria in his novel Bleak House where she appeared as the murderous maid Hortense after he was part of a crowd of an estimated thirty thousand spectators to her hanging.

This book which starts by covering real murders which were written up into broadsheets to be sold by peddlers at fairs and executions, to covering those crimes used to inspire fiction and then, following the introduction of the first detectives their fictional counterparts began to flourish. The author explains the introduction of forensics in bringing the criminals to justice in a straightforward way although Silent Witnesses is essential reading to understand the history behind forensics. Maybe because it was originally written TV series the narrative does jump backwards and forwards a little at times but I still found it easy to follow the point the author was attempting to make in each of the twenty-four chapters.

The book looks at the lives of the authors who were part of the `Golden Age' of crime fiction including Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie as well as the part they played in the rapid growth in popular crime fiction.

As a look at the changing nature of the types of books the nation read as well as illustrating some of the true-life crimes of the period this is an excellent read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very British Murder, 16 Sept. 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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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 century, the British began to "enjoy and consume the idea of a murder."

De Quincey's essay uses the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway Murders as it's theme. Lucy Worsley takes us through the way crime was dealt with and the importance of the Ratcliffe Murders as a faceless, urban murder, which caused shockwaves throughout the country. In this book she looks at how murder became entertainment; involving sensational journalism, the theatre, tourism and detective fiction. The founding of an organised police force is discussed, the use of detectives, notorious crimes, 'Penny Bloods' (the forerunner of crime fiction) and forensic science. She also looks at crime fiction, from Dickens, to Sherlock Holmes and through the Golden Age of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

It is fair to say that this work does have some limitations; it is a little unfocused and tends to rely on the notorious and shocking, in a way which will probably have more impact on the screen than on the page. However, if you have an interest in true crime or crime fiction, then you will surely enjoy this. Lucy Worsley is an excellent writer and her enthusiasm for history and personal charm is enough to make this a worthwhile, fascinating and, keeping with her theme of an enjoyment in murder, an entertaining read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining social history, 16 Nov. 2014
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This book was apparently written to accompany a BBC television series which I haven’t seen – I didn’t feel that this impaired my understanding or enjoyment of the book at all.

In this book the author attempts to describe for the reader the historical development in Britain of the idea of murder as entertainment. She discusses the growth in interest in headline grabbing murders from the late 18th century onwards. Following on from this she shows how the interesting real-life crime feeds into the development of crime fiction up until the so-called Golden Age before the Second World War.

This book is remarkably easy to read and fascinating in the material that it considers. I had never really thought before about how murder has become entertainment in this country but the author shows that particular aspect of the British character and culture. This is not a particularly deep book and should the reader wish to consider any of the points raised in-depth then they may need to look elsewhere for more details but as an overview this is a fascinating book written in an easy to read way.

The link between real-life crime and fictional crime was not obvious to me before I read this book but now it seems self-evident. The author considers a large number of real-life crimes although most of these are very well known and if you have any interest in the subject you will probably have read about them elsewhere. She is not looking at the actual crime or its investigation but how it is betrayed in the media and how ordinary people react to it - none of this is particularly edifying but nor is it surprising for those who read British tabloids.

The crime fiction considered here really concentrates on all that written before the Second World War. As I have a working knowledge of most of the books and authors that she uses as examples I found this particularly interesting. This is not a scholarly work so do not expect her to use examples which are particularly obscure and nor do you need to consult the footnotes to understand what is going on. This is a work of generally accessible social history which explores the development of an aspect of British culture in a very entertaining manner.

If you are interested in true life crime or in the development of crime fiction then I think you will find this a very enjoyable read. The author references a lot of other books on similar subjects and there is a full bibliography at the end so if you wish to consider the matter further then there is plenty of recommended reading. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book For Crime Fans, 25 May 2014
This review is from: A Very British Murder (Paperback)
Face it, we find murder fascinating. Even in the age of the internet and 'instant news', we love to lap up every little detail. This book, which accompanies the enjoyable tv series, looks at WHY we are so interested in even the most gruesome of murders. We find out about the rise of the detective, both real and fictional, and how Victorian broadsheets, mass produced and sold cheaply, gave rise to the crime novels of today Famous true crime cases are mentioned, such as the Ratcliffe Highway murders, the Red Barn case, and of course, the infamous Crippen.

We also find out about the lively trade in 'souveniers', such as models of the Red Barn, pieces of the barn itself and even stone chips from the victim's headstone! We find out about the puppet shows, melodramas and ballads which were popular too.

Our appetite for crime hasn't faded - crime novels, tv dramas, films, and even board games continue to attract huge numbers of fans. in fact, the third best-selling author (after the Bible and Shakespeare) is Agatha Christie!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feels a little light, 7 Oct. 2013
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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To be honest this was a book I ordered as I've always been fascinated with the British love of a murder story. Whilst I'm not saying that it's a good thing, throughout our history, since Jack the Ripper, we've always been fascinated to read about the real macabre events in real life trying to find out who has the not only the latest news but also to see what details have been revealed within.

This title by Lucy, whilst Ok, feels a little short changes as she keeps referring to a title by Judith Flanders called The Invention of Murder. For me, if you're going to keep doing that, perhaps you'd be better off not writing a book but point people towards that title to start off with.

Add to this a book that really isn't that linear and has the reader jumping forward and backwards in time as well as focusing on perhaps the most well known murders (or rather the ones with the most details available) which all round leave the reader feeling a little cheated with nothing really startling revealed. All round I was a little disappointed with the title and whilst it was there to accompany the TV show of the same name it's one that I feel that would be better borrorwed from a library rather than purchased with your hard earned cash.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A grand companion volume to "The Invention of Murder", 25 April 2014
By 
Ye Olde Ed (Chelmsford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Very British Murder (Hardcover)
As Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, Dr Worsley is probably best known for her works on the monarchy and the development of the British home, but her interest in murder as a social phenomenon is genuine. In 1827 Thomas De Quincey’s satirical essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts” broached the idea of the English as “Murder-Fanciers”. He was inspired by the brutal killing in 1811 of a shopkeeper and his family in Ratcliffe Highway, and the possible miscarriage of justice by which John Williams was speedily arrested, convicted and hanged. The Metropolitan Police, founded in 1829, developed in parallel with science and medicine. Detection of crime became gradually more sophisticated, but so did crime itself, including murder. Real-life detectives were immortalised in fiction — Inspector Field as Inspector Bucket in "Bleak House", Inspector Whicher as Sergeant Cuff in "The Moonstone" — and fictional murder became big business, not least when it was satisfactorily solved by a truly great detective, as too few factual murders were. Sherlock Holmes came on to the scene just as the police and scientific specialists were learning, as Dr Worsley puts it, to read a body. It was a timely arrival. "The Invention of Murder" by Judith Flanders is rightly recommended as the fuller, more comprehensive study, and "A Very British Murder" makes a grand companion volume.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From melodrama to noir..., 2 April 2014
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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 the loose? Combine that with the rise of affordable printed material, such as the Penny Dreadfuls that became available during the Victorian era, and suddenly the commercial potential of murder, real or fictional, was huge.

The book is light in tone and an easy, enjoyable read. Worsley also presented a companion TV series (which I didn't watch) and the book is written in an episodic format, presumably to tie in with that. Much of the material will be familiar to anyone with an interest in crime fiction or true crime, but the format draws interesting parallels between the society of a given time and how that influenced the type of crime fiction that was being written. She takes us through the major real-life cases of the Victorian age, such as the Road Hill House murder or the Maria Manning case and shows how these were reflected both in stage melodrama and in the early crime fiction of Dickens, Wilkie Collins et al. We see how the rise of the detective in real-life began to be mirrored in some fiction, while the early failures of the police to solve crimes left the door open for the rise of the fictional amateur sleuth. Of course, Worsley talks about Holmes and Watson in this context, but she also casts her net more widely to discuss sensation writers such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and early fictional female sleuths and how they reflected and to some degree challenged the Victorian view of women in general.

As she moves into the twentieth century, Worsley largely pulls away from true crime to concentrate on the fictional. She discusses the Golden Age authors in some depth, giving almost mini-biographies of some of them, particularly Dorothy L Sayers. She argues (as others have done) that the Golden Age puzzle with its fairly defined rules developed as a response to the horrors of WW1 and fed into a society that wanted something a bit cosier than the blood-curdling melodramas of the past. She discusses how class and gender were represented in these novels, but keeps the tone light - though it's clearly well-researched, this book never reads like an academic study.

After the Golden Age, Worsley rushes through hard-boiled fiction and today's appetite for the noir and the serial-killer, but this last chapter is really just a post-script. Her position seems to be that the mystery novel declined as a form after the Second World War, to be replaced by the more violent thriller genre - true to an extent, but the huge market for cosies suggests to me that there's a bigger appetite for 'traditional' murder mysteries still than I felt Worsley acknowledged. And there are still plenty of police procedurals that at heart are the descendants of the Golden Age, where clues and character are still more important than blood-soaked scenes of violence and torture. Thank goodness!

An interesting and enjoyable read, which I would suggest would be an ideal entry-level book for anyone looking to find out more about the history of crime fiction and its links with society.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Ebury.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and accessible., 27 Jan. 2014
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
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I’ve been dipping in and out of this one as I like to do with Non Fiction and as a reader interested in true crime and indeed crime fiction this was a great little read.

It is focussed less on actual crime but more on our fascination with it – and how in a lot of ways it became a source of entertainment for the public and inspiration for many fictional stories. Examining several “high profile” cases – the most interesting of which for me was the Ratcliff Highway Murders as I knew nothing about them – this traces back the roots of the public fascination for all things macabre in a very accessible way.

Also looking at crime fiction from Holmes to Christie to Sayers amongst others, this was a fascinating insight into crime and our different obsessions with it. I admittedly have not watched the television show that this is accompanies but I may have to rectify that.

If you are interested in Crime, both as fiction and as reality, especially in how it affects the public psyche, then you will certainly find a lot to appreciate here.

Happy Reading Folks!

*received via Netgalley*
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucy Worsley is a wonderful presenter and her enthusiasm for any subject she tackles ..., 9 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: A Very British Murder (Hardcover)
This was the book of the BBC 4 series. Lucy Worsley is a wonderful presenter and her enthusiasm for any subject she tackles shines through. In this case it is murder or to be more precise British murder. I bought the book for one of my nephews and like me he loved it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book - but expect funny looks on the train., 24 Oct. 2014
By 
Miss S. E. Brown (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Very British Murder (Paperback)
I love Lucy Worsley's other books and her TV shows so safe to say, this is going to be a very positive review. If you finish this book with nothing else, it'll be a reading list of sensation and detective fiction. Worsley is an engaging writer who includes witty asides here and there as well as a huge amount of factual information and insights into the work of critics. The only reason I've given this 4* instead of 5* is that although it gives a good historical account of the British fascination with murder, it gives a sociological rather than a psychological analysis of why this might be.
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A Very British Murder
A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley (Hardcover - 12 Sept. 2013)
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