The Invention of Murder

  • by Judith Flanders
  • Narrated by Janice McKenzie
  • 18 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A deeply engaging and completely original book about nineteenth-century Britain’s fascination with good quality murder.
Murder in nineteenth-century Britain was ubiquitous – not necessarily in quantity but in quality. This was the era of penny-bloods, early crime fiction and melodramas for the masses. This was a time when murder and entertainment were firmly entwined.
In this meticulously researched and compelling book, Judith Flanders, author of Consuming Passions, takes us back in time to explore some of the most gripping, gruesome and mind-boggling murders of the nineteenth-century. Covering the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, as well as the lesser known but equally shocking acts of Burke and Hare, and Thurtell and Hunt, Flanders looks at how murder was regarded by the wider British population – and how it became a form of popular entertainment.
Filled to the brim with rich source material – ranging from studies of plays, novels and contemporary newspaper articles, A Social History of Murder brings to life a neglected dimension of British social history in a completely new and exciting way.

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What the Critics Say

"It is a world explored with much wit and insight…Flanders is excellent…It’s a rich mix [and]…fluently written…It has every chance of becoming a bestseller."(Sunday Telegraph)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Changed my opinion of Dickens!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I already have! I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the history of crime fiction, or of Victorian literature. There is a deep understanding of Victorian culture, along with a fascinating exploration of how the crimes of the day influenced many authors and books we now think of as classics, like Dickens, Hardy, Conan Doyle, and even Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.


What did you like best about this story?

The way the author wove in the crimes gaining media attention and how theatre and literature responded to them. She includes amazing insights into the influences crimes had on Charles Dickens' stories that make me (generally lukewarm on Dickens) want to go back and explore him again.


What about Janice McKenzie’s performance did you like?

The wit, warmth, and occasional sarcasm she brings to her narration perfectly match the author's tone in the book. Pitch-perfect, easy to listen to, and with a good sense of how to get across sensation and scandal.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The tale of one particular woman who was executed for a murder she almost certainly didn't commit -- the book goes into detail of all the flaws in the case against her and really highlights the pathos of her story.


Any additional comments?

This book weaves many threads together: the creation of the Metropolitan Police, social fears and prejudices, issues of class, the development of the crime fiction genre, the influence of real world events on popular fiction, concepts of justice, the development of forensic science, and journalistic ethics all get a say in this remarkably complex history of crime.

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- Jessie

couldn't get into this book

It's difficult to review this book because nothing about it grabbed me, but I have no objective criticism of it. It is true to its title, and is indeed an excellent history of murder and how it was investigated, reported, 'solved', and punished in Victorian times. There are interesting cases and interesting characters and the book is well constructed and well written. Perhaps my inability to get involved stems from the fact that I find the primitive policing methods and prejudices of bygone eras a bit boring (and disturbing) compared with modern investigative and forensic techniques. The book is very competently read, although it seemed to me that the soft voice of the narrator would have been better suited to a romance or novel than a hard-hitting book about murder. Then again, that's subjective and not a valid criticism.
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- Robyn "Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-20-2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited