Just read, The Invention of Murder, Judith Flanders


Finally finished The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. A book about murder in Victorian Britain and how the press sensationalised it, theatres made a spectacle of it, waxworks profited from it and some famous and some not so famous novelists used it for inspiration. It also talks about the police and the early Scotland Yard. Was really looking forward to reading it ever since it came out last year and now am mildly disappointed with it. The subject is fascinating and the book really is very well researched but the result strangely jumbled. At least I found it so. Too many times, it felt like I was reading a list of which newspaper said what and on several occasions, victims and murderers would be mentioned, with reference to their story a 100 or so pages on. This made for a confused reading and my mind wandered off frequently.
At the same time, references to characters and situations in 19th century novels were very interesting, Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell for example (which I love!), several of Wilkie Collins novels, obviously The Moonstone and The Woman in White (which I didn’t really enjoy as much as Moonstone), Hardy’s Tess (errr, haven’t read it but have it on kindle), obviously Charles Dickens, lots of Dickens (Bleak House, which is one of my favourites featured prominently), Sherlock Holmes novels, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula to name a good few. I remember reading about Dickens and Collins’s fascination with murder cases in Kate Summerscale’s Suspicions of Mr Whicher but Judith Flanders expanded on that adding a lot of background which was fascinating.
I also have the new Kate Summerscale about a Victorian divorce scandal (I think?), which I am hoping to read at some point soon and, I may also get the recently published book on Stead, newspaper owner whose first name I can’t remember. There was a good little episode in the Flanders’ book about his rant about an East End murder and he sounds a fascinating character. But first, must decide what to read next… tough choice as there are piles (virtual and physical) of books waiting!


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