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Brilliantly researched and rendered, this is an indispensable read for anyone-scholars and the general public alike-who harbors an interest in the evolution of the notion and representation of murder. UK social historian Flanders (The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London) has written a remarkable cultural history that chronicles the way murder was regarded and written about during the Victorian era. Having sifted through innumerable broadsides, newspapers, journals, and fictional pieces of the time, Flanders posits that our modern understanding of-and our fascination with-murder has been shaped by Victorian cultural mores and representations in print media, drama, and literature. The chapter titles provide an outline of the historical development of our relationship with murder: "Imagining Murder," "Trial by Newspaper, "Entertaining Murder," "Policing Murder," "Panic," "Middle-Class Poisoners," Science, Technology and the Law, "Violence," and "Modernity." Flanders presents a fascinating narrative in well-crafted and at times suitably ironic prose. VERDICT Perfect for readers who enjoyed Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. An absorbing contribution to the history of crime.-Lynne Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
The Victorians, everyone knows, made the most out of mourning; the clothes they wore after a death, for example, signaled to the world at what stage they were in their grief from the deepest black of widow's weeds through shades of purple leading to a normal range of colors. This social history catalogs the Victorians' parallel obsession with sensational crimes real, fictional, and hybrids of both (as in broadsides that took great liberties with the truth, or novels with references to crimes of the day, like the practice of garroting as a street crime, which appears in Trollope's Phineas Finn). Historian Flanders gives a brisk review of crimes and criminals that fascinated the Victorians, including Jack the Ripper and the body snatchers William Burke and William Hare, along with many other criminals, crimes, and public practices, like sightseeing in just-discovered crime scenes (no police tape protected the scene). This compendium is a little too brisk, presenting many facts but very little analysis. Still, it will appeal to historical true-crime fans and Victorian-era enthusiasts.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Social historian Flanders (Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England) does a superb job of demonstrating the role that the press and fiction writers played in shaping the British public's attitudes toward crime during the 19th century. She captures perfectly the appeal of bloody fiction and macabre news stories: "Crime, especially murder, is very pleasant to think about in the abstract: it is like hearing blustery rain on the windowpane when sitting indoors." But it's unlikely that the British thought of murder much at all during the first decade of the 19th century-in 1810, there were a mere 15 murder convictions in England and Wales combined. The public's perception of random lethal violence changed with the horrific 1811 Ratcliffe Highway killings, brutal mass murders in London's East End that coincided with technological advances that enabled swifter and cheaper production of broadsheets describing the crimes. Flanders's convincing and smart synthesis of the evolution of an official police force, fictional detectives, and real-life cause celebres will appeal to devotees of true crime and detective fiction alike. B&w illus. throughout. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.