Read The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley Online


Murder -- a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, wMurder -- a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nationwide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria's lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, prose and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern England, murder entered our national psyche, and it's been a part of us ever since. The Art of the English Murder is a unique exploration of the art of crime and a riveting investigation into the English criminal soul by one of our finest historians....

Title : The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781605986340
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 312 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock Reviews

  • Amy Sturgis
    2019-04-24 00:56

    Parts One and Two of Lucy Worsley's book ("How to Enjoy a Murder" and "Enter the Detective") cover much of the same material I do when teaching my graduate courses "The Gothic Tradition" and "Sherlock, Science, and Ratiocination." While the information presented wasn't new to me, I appreciated the excellent organization and thoroughness of Worsley's investigation. About the time I would think, for example, "Next up should be the Road Hill House Murder and its influence on novels like The Moonstone," there the expected chapter would be.Part Three, "The Golden Age," was equally well thought out, and Worsley's analysis gave me some welcome new insights about the "dead end" of the interwar detective novel before British genre authors followed their U.S. counterparts into the hard-boiled, noir style of storytelling. On a personal note, Worsley's balanced and insightful analysis helped me finally to articulate why I can read Wilkie Collins or Arthur Conan Doyle all day long, over and over again with relish, while the works of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers leave me cold.I especially admired Worsley's elegant use of two essays - Thomas De Quincey's "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" (1827) and George Orwell's "Decline of the English Murder" (1946) - as the framing works between which her intellectual history unfolds.Beautifully done.

  • Susan
    2019-05-04 03:56

    This book has been written to accompany a television series of the same name and does, as a consequence jump around a little in subject matter. The book begins and ends with discussion of an essay - the first being, "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" by Thomas De Quincey and finishes with an appraisal of "The Decline of the English Murder" by George Orwell. This is not really about crime, as such, although many crimes are discussed - it is about how, especially since the nineteenth century, the British began to "enjoy and consume the idea of a murder."De Quincey's essay uses the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway Murders as it's theme. Lucy Worsley takes us through the way crime was dealt with and the importance of the Ratcliffe Murders as a faceless, urban murder, which caused shockwaves throughout the country. In this book she looks at how murder became entertainment; involving sensational journalism, the theatre, tourism and detective fiction. The founding of an organised police force is discussed, the use of detectives, notorious crimes, 'Penny Bloods' (the forerunner of crime fiction) and forensic science. She also looks at crime fiction, from Dickens, to Sherlock Holmes and through the Golden Age of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.It is fair to say that this work does have some limitations; it is a little unfocused and tends to rely on the notorious and shocking, in a way which will probably have more impact on the screen than on the page. However, if you have an interest in true crime or crime fiction, then you will surely enjoy this. Lucy Worsley is an excellent writer and her enthusiasm for history and personal charm is enough to make this a worthwhile, fascinating and, keeping with her theme of an enjoyment in murder, an entertaining read.

  • Melora
    2019-05-02 22:41

    A quick, entertaining history of English murder as popular entertainment. The author, Lucy Worsley, takes as the beginning of the presentation of murder packaged for public consumption the essay of Thomas De Quincey, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, 1827. She traces the popular appreciation of murder from here on through Madame Tussaud's Waxworks; the “Penny Blood” booklet; Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins; the Ballad (and puppet show) of Maria Marten; the cases of Dr. William Palmer, Madeleine Smith, Florence Bravo, and others, as newspaper drama; Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack the Ripper; Sherlock Holmes and forensic science; the Golden Age writers, Christie, Sayers, Allingham; and, finally, Dashiell Hammett, Graham Greene, and Alfred Hitchcock. And that's just a quick survey – she actually covers a lot more. Worsley examines changing public attitudes towards crime and law enforcement, particularly from the Georgian period, where she begins, through the Victorians. I found the history of the police and detective forces, developing from the older system of constables and watchmen, particularly interesting.Worsley's manner of citing the work of other authors of books on English murder, often Judith Flanders and P.D. James, struck me as a little odd (a bit “research paper-ish”) until I realized that it was actually a function of this book having been written in conjunction with the production of a television series, “A Very British Murder.” She brings in the work of other writers in the same way she brings in guest “experts” on the television show. It wasn't really an issue, and I'd be glad to see the television series if it were available (some of the ballads, puppet shows, and dramas she describes would be interesting to see!). While this book does not focus exclusively on detective fiction, it includes a nice survey of English detective fiction through to the “hard-boiled” period, and I found it a fun and instructive read.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-05-07 02:47

    Description: Murder - a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nationwide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria s lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, prose and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern England, murder entered our national psyche, and it s been a part of us ever since. The Art of the English Murder is a unique exploration of the art of crime and a riveting investigation into the English criminal soul by one of our finest historians."Although this sent me off researching fuller versions of incidents mentioned, the worth of The Art of the English Murder itself had little allure.

  • Jo Chambers
    2019-04-28 20:43

    This book formed the basis of a short TV series presented by Lucy on the history of the British crime novel. Lucy Worsley is one of my favourite historians, she is always so enthusiastic and engaging, with a wonderful sense of humour and great insight. The book traces the development of the British crime novel from its beginnings in the Georgian Sensation novels and fascination with real life crimes, through the Victorian crime novels -Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, and into the Golden Age of classic detective novels in the 1920s and 30s -Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers et al. Lucy concludes that we can learn a lot about contemporary society from the crime books we read. The cosy crimes of the interwar years were a reaction against the horrors of the Great War, for example. This was a fascinating read about the history of my favourite book genre!

  • Margaret
    2019-05-14 19:44

    An excellent look at the English attitude to murder, both real and fictional.Some lovely background on the Detection Club.Learned some very interesting little pieces of trivia like the fact that E. W. Hornung, the creator of the gentleman thief, Raffles, was the brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.Well worth a read by anyone interested in crime and the golden age of detective fiction.

  • Caidyn (BW Book Reviews; he/him/his)
    2019-05-11 21:02

    3.5While this was meticulously researched, the book really didn't pull through like I wanted. I think the author should have kept out the "From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock" part of the title. Why? Because Jack the Ripper was mentioned in passing, Sherlock Holmes got maybe 10 minutes of material, and Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock were more after mentions.Really, this was about murder and the Victorian times. How it evolved from the impoverished to the middle class, the morbid fascination with it, and how literature changed to reflect the times. So, that's what it was about. Post-war was glossed over, and the focus was really on Victorian times with Worsley citing things more like papers and the public hangings, or side shows, or Madame Tussaud's instead of focusing on literature as we think about it today. Literature was, again, more of a side note. She really focused on Wilkie Collins. So, if you haven't read his major works, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Worsley spoils the plot line for three of his most famous books, and I had only read one of them while planning to read the other two.

  • Chris
    2019-05-06 01:44

    This isn’t quite as good as the Judith Flanders book which Worsley does draw on. That said, however, it is either a good companion volume or a good place to start depending on which order you are reading them in. In fact, if the Flanders’ book looks too daunting, this one, shorter, is good enough to be read in lieu of. If you have read the Flanders book, there is supplemental information here, and while Worsley does focus on more of the cases, since she is focusing on fewer, there is more information. There is a little more focus on the impact on literature as well as the view of women. The writing style is engrossing.

  • Kaethe
    2019-05-17 00:48

    How did we come to a place where crime is entertainment? It's a really good question. Short answer: as the odds of certain risks (murder) go down, fascination with it goes up. Well, Worsley wrote a whole book explaining it better that that, and a very entertaining book it is, tracing the rise of newspapers, fictional detectives, the golden age of crime writing. I particularly enjoy the history of policing and detection, but it's all good.Library copy

  • Nikki
    2019-04-29 00:46

    A Very British Murder is an extremely readable, sometimes gossipy survey of the development of crime/mystery literature in Britain, up to the Golden Age of Sayers and Christie. It examines why people loved a good murder story, and what kind of murder story they wanted, while also reflecting on some of the real murders that occurred and the anxieties surrounding them.I especially enjoyed Worsley’s sympathy for Sayers and Christie, and her defence of Gaudy Night against a male critic’s boredom about it. Quite right, too!It’s not deep lit crit, or a totally in depth micro-history, but there’s interesting stuff and it’s entertainingly written.Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

  • Leah
    2019-05-19 23:09

    From melodrama to noir...Lucy Worsley has set out to trace the roots of the British obsession with murder – as consumers, rather than participants. She makes the case that the fascination with murder corresponded to the increasing urbanisation of Britain during the nineteenth century which, because neighbours no longer knew each other as they had done in a more rural age, meant that murders could be much harder to detect. And what could be more thrilling than knowing that a murderer might be on the loose? Combine that with the rise of affordable printed material, such as the Penny Dreadfuls that became available during the Victorian era, and suddenly the commercial potential of murder, real or fictional, was huge. The book is light in tone and an easy, enjoyable read. Worsley also presented a companion TV series (which I didn’t watch) and the book is written in an episodic format, presumably to tie in with that. Much of the material will be familiar to anyone with an interest in crime fiction or true crime, but the format draws interesting parallels between the society of a given time and how that influenced the type of crime fiction that was being written. She takes us through the major real-life cases of the Victorian age, such as the Road Hill House murder or the Maria Manning case and shows how these were reflected both in stage melodrama and in the early crime fiction of Dickens, Wilkie Collins et al. We see how the rise of the detective in real-life began to be mirrored in some fiction, while the early failures of the police to solve crimes left the door open for the rise of the fictional amateur sleuth. Of course, Worsley talks about Holmes and Watson in this context, but she also casts her net more widely to discuss sensation writers such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and early fictional female sleuths and how they reflected and to some degree challenged the Victorian view of women in general.As she moves into the twentieth century, Worsley largely pulls away from true crime to concentrate on the fictional. She discusses the Golden Age authors in some depth, giving almost mini-biographies of some of them, particularly Dorothy L Sayers. She argues (as others have done) that the Golden Age puzzle with its fairly defined rules developed as a response to the horrors of WW1 and fed into a society that wanted something a bit cosier than the blood-curdling melodramas of the past. She discusses how class and gender were represented in these novels, but keeps the tone light – though it’s clearly well-researched, this book never reads like an academic study. After the Golden Age, Worsley rushes through hard-boiled fiction and today’s appetite for the noir and the serial-killer, but this last chapter is really just a post-script. Her position seems to be that the mystery novel declined as a form after the Second World War, to be replaced by the more violent thriller genre – true to an extent, but the huge market for cosies suggests to me that there’s a bigger appetite for ‘traditional’ murder mysteries still than I felt Worsley acknowledged. And there are still plenty of police procedurals that at heart are the descendants of the Golden Age, where clues and character are still more important than blood-soaked scenes of violence and torture. Thank goodness!An interesting and enjoyable read, which I would suggest would be an ideal entry-level book for anyone looking to find out more about the history of crime fiction and its links with society. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House

  • Rinn
    2019-05-14 22:57

    I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.Despite not having seen the accompanying television series, I pretty much proved Lucy Worsley’s point when I was drawn to this book because of the title. A tale of how the British public have been obsessed with the idea of murder, particularly in the past three hundred years or so, it’s actually quite a lot more than that. Covering the development of the police force, the popularity of horror and true crime novels, famous authors inspired by true crime and other anecdotes like the origins of Madame Tussaud’s, Lucy Worsley manages to pack a lot into one volume.The first chapter, the story of the Ratcliff Highway Murders, just didn’t do much to grab my attention despite its rather morbid happenings, and I have to admit that I only glanced over much of it – and I actually skipped over many more, but there were some stand-out sections. For example, the chapter on the first appearance of the ‘Penny Dreadful’ was fascinating – these were cheaper alternatives to true crime novels and therefore also accessible to the lower classes. It also explains the name of the recent TV series, which features familiar characters from horror and crime together in one place. There are also sections on authors like Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie – which serves to remind me that I haven’t read anything by either of them!Although I may have skipped some chapters, this is definitely the sort of history book you can read the entirety of due to Worsley’s writing style, which panders to all. She does not assume the reader is familiar with the history, which makes it perfect for anyone with a new interest in the subject, yet she also does not patronise. However, some areas just unfortunately failed to capture my interest at all. Recommended if you’re interested in the history of criminology and inspiration behind true crime, or fancy reading something a bit more macabre!

  • Deanne
    2019-04-30 03:51

    Interesting history of British crime, from the regency through to the modern crime stories. Lucy Worsley starts with the Ratcliffe highway murders and how they and subsequent killers and their victims affected crime fiction. Not just novels, but plays as well. There are the sensation novels, detective novels with professional police and the golden age, with amateur detectives.Worsley covers some of the most well known books and authors, and makes me want to sit in a comfy chair by a fire with a stack of these books to read.

  • Tweedledum
    2019-04-21 22:43

    Lucy Worsley romps through 100 years of detective fiction with typical enthusiasm and energy. The first half of the book was much more detailed than the second which felt rather rushed, nevertheless I enjoyed Worsley's potted history being a fan of crime fiction and found that there were many ideas new to me. The ending felt rather abrupt as though Worsley had run out of time to write more but overall I found that the book was quite a page turner in it's own right and made me want to revisit many of the greats of crime fiction including Wilkie Collins and Dorothy Sayers with fresh eyes.

  • Natalia
    2019-05-13 00:45

    I absolutely loved it, and I adore Lucy Worsley.

  • Mary
    2019-05-20 19:59

    "The Art of the English Murder" was written as a companion to the television presentation of the same name by Lucy Worsley. I don't know if the show ran in the United States. In any case, I have not seen it. I was drawn to the book because I have enjoyed Lucy Worsley's book "If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home". Ms. Worsley is a historian and Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces in Britain.I was intrigued by the complete title, but I think I expected a different kind of book. It covers a period from the early 19th century to the end of World War II, which seemed a bit of an odd place to end, because of P.D. James, Elizabeth George, and other contemporary writers. But Ms. Worsley was content to end it with the Golden Age of Mysteries defined by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Much of the book, especially the first two-thirds, is really about true crimes of the period which caught the public fancy, It was a time when literacy was rising among the lower classes in Britain and the lurid details of murders became popular reading. Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins make appearances in this section. It really isn't until the chapter about Sherlock Holmes that books that might be more familiar to modern readers come under the microscope.Ms. Worsley makes some interesting connections between crimes and literature, and she explores some of the psychological reasons that this type of reading has become so popular. But in the long run, this book falls between the two topics. It does not give enough detail to be a real psychological study of English murder and she does not cover enough literature to be satisfactory. Her short chapters on Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Alfred Hitchcock give a hint of what might have been. Alas, a deeper analysis would have much improved my impressions of the book.

  • Jeanne
    2019-05-14 02:03

    Such a fun and informative read. I grew up on Golden Age detective novels, thanks to my mom being a huge fan. This filled in a lot of history and societal stuff that shaped the genre and notable authors. Another great October/Halloween read.

  • Lisa
    2019-05-13 23:59

    The British have apparently long been fascinated with crime and criminals, from the crowds that would gleefully gather to watch public executions hundreds of years ago right up to the Sunday night telly watcher, inhaling the latest series of Sherlock. In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley - she who’s also regularly on telly as one of its more engaging historians - looks at the British appetite for murders most foul, and how those appetites have affected and evolved our most popular forms of entertainment. Taking in penny dreadfuls, puppet shows, popular songs, gothic melodramas and detective novels, more than one spoiler is dropped about the plots and denouements of many classics of these genres, so some readers should take care if they have a any of these classics on their to-be-read shelves.While A Very British Murder was indeed interesting - particularly when it came to the evolution of types of crime throughout the ages, and (of course) the chapters dealing with the Victorian age were also a bright spot, ushering in the birth of new detectives to catch the very criminals that most were reading about (as well as that being reflected in new fictional counterparts) - I nevertheless couldn’t quite get as into it as I’d hoped I would. Maybe I’ve lost my reading mojo again as this is the second book in a row that I should have loved but didn’t, but ultimately it was a slimline book that took a long time to finish, thanks to my attention constantly wandering away from what I was reading about.**Also posted at Cannonball Read 9**

  • Yvonne
    2019-05-19 23:03

    This book was an incredibly comprehensible and enjoyable history of murder as a form of entertainment in England. It covered multiple eras and the changes brought to science and society when it came to murder. Just as the author of the book took great pleasure in exploring these past horrors I found a great pleasure in learning about them. The book begins by exploring the beginnings of murder as a form of both entertainment and fear as it came closer and closer to becoming an unpredictable but expected part of life that could occur to anyone within there own home. It then continued on to discuss the formation of the true police department and the changes it went through to combat the crime; the multiple forms of murder that arose as society progressed; from base crimes of passion to the simple poisoning in order to get rid of an unwanted person; and the evolution of murder in literature. Today we watch all kinds of television series that deal primarily with murder, from how to commit it to how to solve it and we read dramatic thrillers or watch horrific movies. While I don’t keep up with today’s primary form of murder as entertainment I do enjoy reading speculations on Jack the Ripper and love getting my hands on a good detective novel by Doyle or Christi. Thus once the book progressed into the era of the detective I found that I enjoyed it a great deal more, this was my prime area of enjoyment. I grew up on clue games, Hardy Boy books, Charlie Chan movies and Colombo. One of my favorite movies is a comedy entitled Murder by Death featuring caricatures of famous fictional detectives trying to solve an impossible mystery. If you like snuggling up with a cozy mystery, reading a thriller before turning out the light at night, clutching at the hand of the person next to you in fear at a movie theater or just want to delve a little into the history of forensic science and crime detection, then this could be the perfect book for you.

  • Ceri
    2019-05-09 02:05

    A fascinating subject engagingly delivered by the always wonderful Ms Worsely. My local library only has 2 fiction sections- crime and author a-z. Though I'm a huge fan of detective mysteries on tv and have acted in an Agatha Christie play, I'm ashamed to say I'm pretty behind on my classics of the genre, something I shall be rectifying at my local library post-haste!

  • Stacee
    2019-05-21 03:11

    A little drier than I was expecting, but quite interesting. I liked learning the history of the popularity of murder in English culture. I was hoping for a bit more on Jack the Ripper, but l was intrigued by the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde section as well as the Sherlock Holmes part. **Huge thanks to Pegasus Crime and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**

  • Hannah
    2019-05-03 01:08

    An enjoyable, but basic, introduction to a completely fascinating topic. If you watched Lucy Worsley's TV series which accompanied this book then don't expect to find any further information that was provided there. It is not an in-depth historical work on the nature of the development of the embedding of "murder" in our cultural psyche but rather a simpler, cursory guide into the timeline from the earliest murder to capture the public imagination at the beginning of the 19th Century in the Radcliffe Highway Murders right through to the development of the modern police force, the early Victorian love for melodramatic puppet shows and "broadsides" early pre-cursors to tabloid newspapers. The Road Hill House murder and the rise of the 1860s sensation novels, the "Jack the Ripper" mania, Sherlock Holmes and then the Golden Age of Detective fiction in the Inter-war period. Worsley heavily hints at other more academic works which deal with all these topics in more detail, most notably Judith Flanders "The Invention of Murder" (on my TBR list) so you can go off and research the areas that appeal to you the most. But it is a fascinating insight into how as a society we have always had this thirst for murder, in the early days it was public executions and souvenirs, then it was through literature and film. The style and forms may have changed over the last 200 years but the one universal truth remains the same. We cannot get enough of murder!

  • Eryn C
    2019-05-15 22:52

    As a lover of crime fiction, this was a delightful and fascinating bit of nonfiction.

  • Irka
    2019-05-03 02:50

    Quite interesting and an easy read, with rather curious part for me, as I did not expect to read about the "anti-vampiric" burial in the XIX century England.

  • A.L. Butcher
    2019-05-17 02:59

    Review to follow

  • Dawn
    2019-04-23 02:10

    I found this book informative from both a personal perspective (I'm a mystery reader) and a professional perspective (I'm a librarian). Having the rise and fall of several related genres and what was going on in society to affect their popularity explained was just interesting. Worsley strikes the right balance between giving us enough information to put things in perspective but not so much information that we are saturated with details we don't need. Plus she writes in an accessible way that makes you want to read what she's writing about.

  • Evelyn Morgan
    2019-05-07 23:54

    I enjoyed this book very much, because I am a big fan of the British murder mystery. Some of the earlier chapters lacked interest for me, I very much enjoyed the last two-thirds of the book. Dr. Lucy Worsley has an engaging way of writing and brings history to life. I learned much about how the classic British mystery came into being.

  • Brian Poole
    2019-05-09 01:53

    The Art of the English Murder is an interesting journey through one of our more macabre pastimes.Picking up in the early 19th century, The Art of the English Murder traces the evolution of public interest in shocking crimes of violence. Starting with famous true crime murders that inspired widespread coverage in newspapers and broadsides, as well as books, plays, essays and songs, the timeline shifts forward, tracing the development of the public’s fascination with grisly murders in tandem with the urbanization of society and the development of London’s professional police force. The lineage includes mid-19th century “sensation novels,” penny dreadfuls and gothic stage dramas of the Victorian era and the emergence of classic British detective fiction, including Sherlock Holmes and the influence of Jack the Ripper, as the century ended. The book spends a lot of time in the period between the 20th century’s two World Wars, the era of Agatha Christie and her peers. The journey wraps in the late ‘40s, as American-style hardboiled crime tales, espionage stories and the atmospheric films of Alfred Hitchcock dominated public fascination.Historian Lucy Worsley constructs a brisk, efficient timeline of the British audience’s fascination with sensational murder stories, both true crime and fictional. She spotlights some of the most famous examples of each and provides some interesting cultural context that digs into why these tales were so compelling to so many people. Worsley has a crisp, breezy style that reads rather smoothly. She explores the sociological and psychological implications of the topic without getting too bogged down in them.The Art of the English Murder is a great exploration of some of the classic authors of British mystery and crime fiction. Worsley describes how the genre pulled in luminaries like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen early on before developing into its own distinct beast, with early practitioners such as Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Later 19th century notables like Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde flirted with the milieu, before Arthur Conan Doyle perfected the short mystery with his Sherlock Holmes tales. Worsley spends a good deal of time on the “four Queens of Crime” from the inter-War “Golden Age” period: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. These writers were almost as colorful as their famous novels and Worsley makes a good case for their continuing vitality to modern readers.Worsley includes all kinds of other interesting details in The Art of the English Murder. She devotes a chapter to the famous wax museum of Madame Tussaud and its embrace of notorious murderers. She examines how patriarchal attitudes in the Victorian era helped more than one woman suspected of murder go free. And she uses the public’s growing fascination with high profile crimes to explore the development of Scotland Yard and London’s Metropolitan Police. There’s a lot of info packed into these pages, but Worsley never lets it overwhelm readers. The tone is almost conversational, like chatting with a smart friend on a fascinating topic.For fans of true crime and mystery fiction, The Art of the English Murder is a detour worth taking.A version of this review originally appeared on

  • Zeb Kantrowitz
    2019-05-19 20:01

    Starting with how murders were handled before there were police forces in England, Worsley chronologically begins by explaining how “Detectives” came about. The first force in London was the “Bow Street Runners” who worked for “The Blind Beak” Sir John Fielding (Henry’s half-brother). Late the Metropolitan Police (The Peelers not Bobbies) were set-up in Greater London (not the City of London) by Sir Robert Peel. As crime became more of a profession of gangs, a separate detective unit was set-up like the Securite’ in Paris under Francois Vidocq. From here Worsley alternates between the change in the novels about crime and the improvements made in crime detection. She discusses the ‘Bertillon’ and fingerprinting systems that allowed the Police to categorize criminals and to circulate accurate data about habitual criminals.During this time (beginning in the 1850s) books were being produced that were originally called the “Penny Dreadfuls” which were just cheap short stories, which evolved into what was later called “Crime Novels”. Some of the first novelists were Ann Radcliffe, George Augustus Sala and Edward Bulwer-Lytton. There books were big sellers and even Charles Dickens joined them when he wrote “Bleak House”. The truly hit their own in the 1920s and 30s with such luminaries as Edgar Wallace, John Buchan, Ngaio Marsh, Margary Allingham and the Grande Dame Agatha Christie. Crime stories were always under the control of an “amateur” detective and there were very little if any blood and gore. Character such as Hercule Piorot and Lord Peter Wimsy are the best examples aside from Sherlock Holmes. One of the main commandments of writing crime fiction was that it should be solvable by the reader from the clues, and that ‘red herring’ were declasse.After World War Two, the rise in Hard-Boiled Crime (like Raymond Chandler) fiction and thrillers and suspense, led to the reduction in the popularity of crime fiction. But it is alive and well in the hands of authors like Jacqueline Winspear (who is a transplanted to California Brit) and Alan Furst’s World War Two stories. Great book for those looking for the names of authors who wrote like Christie and Buchan.Zeb Kantrowitz

  • Caroline
    2019-04-21 00:52

    Scarcely a week goes by without some newspaper, periodical, talking head or politician decrying the influence of violent films and video games on the morals of society, complaining about the increasing depravity of society, the public's obsession with sex and violence and blood. But, as Lucy Worsley ably points out in this thoroughly entertaining book, none of this is new. The British public have been fascinated by a 'good murder' for a very long time.Public hangings always drew crowds, the attendees as involved and engrossed as the crowd in a theatre. They would consume playbills and broadsheets about the crime, listen to the tale via ballads and peepshows; buy souvenirs and relics from the crime scenes. With the rise in literacy levels and the increasing shift in population from rural village to urban scrum, newspapers quickly learned that the best way to shift copy was to write about murder. It was a short step from true-crime accounts in the penny papers to fictionalised accounts of real murders and hence to purely fictional crimes.This is the kind of work best described as a 'romp', short but sweet, moving rapidly from Georgian highwayman to Victorian murderesses, Jack the Ripper, poisoners and the rise of the police force, Charles Dickens to Agatha Christie. There was little here that was new to me and there's no great depth to any of it, but it's hard to be churlish about such an engaging read.One would only need to work in a public library for five minutes or take a quick scan of the Radio Times to realise that the British love of murder isn't going away any time soon - thrillers may be more popular now than the traditional detective story, but murder is still at the heart of all of these stories, and perhaps the great comfort in these pages is that the puzzle is always solved, the murderer always caught, the clues deciphered and the whole thing drawn up in a tidy package, the natural order restored. If only real life were as orderly and reassuring as fiction...