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A Very British Murder

A Very British Murder

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Lucy Worsley touches on the hard-boiled elements of murder with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler before she concludes, 'All through writing this book I've been worried about being too flippant about murder.

Mrs Radcliffe with 'The Mysteries of the Udolpho', 1794, was arguably the first to be followed by the famous 'Penny Bloods' that gave the public the gore that they wanted. This fascination helped create a whole new world of entertainment, inspiring novels, plays and films, puppet shows, paintings and true-crime journalism - as well as an army of fictional detectives who still enthral us today. It reminded me of some great mysteries I’ve read over the years and had me thinking of re-reading a few of them, and also reminded me of authors I have yet to try. Best-remembered for his memoir ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’, he was an improvident hack, down on his luck, who needed to produce some articles for ready money, and in 1827 he came up with one titled ‘On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’.

By the time hanging was abolished in 1964, the detective story was being replaced by the spy thriller. 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. 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. I would imagine that murder would never have been an unreported crime, so what would the reason(s) be for such an increase? He tried Dorothy L Sayers with 'The Nine Tailors', which did not help the situation because he began his critique with 'One of the dullest books I have ever encountered in any field.

The public did not like Wilson's assessments and he received hundreds of letters berating him for his lack of discernment over the lady authors. Ever since the Ratcliff Highway Murders caused a nation-wide panic in Regency England, the British have taken an almost ghoulish pleasure in 'a good murder'. This multiple murder saw the beginning of the gruesome correlation between lurid reporting of a crime that sparked a massive increase in the sales of newspapers and thus engendered the interest of the public.And this is a little bit before the Golden Age, but I also liked the discussion on Lady Audley’s Secret.

I had previously read about some of the celebrated cases covered - the murders on the Ratcliffe Highway and the Red Barn and the one which formed the subject of 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' - but the author also draws upon cases now less known, and describes the development of the police force and crime investigation. We were becoming a much more humane society by then, and in fact had been thus since 1823, when the Judgement of Death Act reduced the number of capital crimes to those guilty of treason, murder or piracy. From a Regency serial killer to Agatha Christie, this is the story of how crime was turned into art.

And poison was particularly scary because it could come by the hand of someone you trusted, like a doctor, housemaid, even a relative. Now and then Worsley will wander into spoiler-y territory regarding particular books, but I’m not pointing this out as a complaint. In it was suggested that there was an increase in the murder rate around the end of the 18th century.

In the last part of the book, Worsley takes a look at some of the best crime fiction authors including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L.You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. Whether you're looking for some textbooks for university, the latest biography or a travel guide - you'll find what you need in our categories.

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