MRS FLANDERS’ new book cat’logues the notorious rogues and vill’ans of the great VICTORIAN AGE. Recoil at such fiendish devil’ry as that committed by MESSRS BURKE & HARE, WAINEWRIGHT and the remorseless poisoner PALMER. Witness again the lamentable and notorious crimes of the sin-ful women, MADELINE SMITH and ELIZA FENNING. Embark on a colour-ful and sensational tour of BRUTALITY and EVIL, culminating in the most cruel and vicious MURDERER of the AGE, the unspeakable JACK THE RIPPER!
(I do like those old Victorian adverts).
THE INVENTON OF MURDER details the great crimes of the nineteenth century, particularly those which really caught the public’s imagination. Each case builds on the last, showing how they fed into news, plays, print and even puppet shows – and led to the rise to the detective fiction (even as the most famous murderer of the day proved to be undetectable). It’s probably a book to dip into rather than read in one sitting: as even if you have a penchant for gruesome stuff, A killing B, before C gets rid of D, and E really does do a number on F, does get a bit repetitive and tiresome after a while.
The point of it all is that the increasing frequency of murder led to its greater – and more sensational – representation in the media, which then fed into a desire for the police (and, in particular, the detective force) to become more organised and efficient. But is that really the case? The crimes depicted don’t alter that much in terms of brutality (the murder which opens this book is pretty bloody vicious), and besides the nature of progress means that the representation of crime (and detection methods themselves) was always going to change. But detective fiction does not necessarily feed directly into reality. In fact, more often than not, I’d say it doesn’t. If we look at the subsequent century, how much relation to real crime did Agatha Christie ever have?
Still this is an entertaining guide for those of a certain mindset. It’s gory stuff of the kind we’re awash with now (although probably nothing in here matches an average episode of LUTHER), but just think – the brutal and vicious acts depicted within, really did quicken the pulse-rates of our great, great, great grandparents.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!