Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime. 2014.
Audience: Readers of the history of murder in Great Britain. Readers of British detective murder mysteries.
Rating: Good to very good.
Link @ Amazon.
An interview with Lucy Worsley:
The Art of the English Murder is less about the act of murders, and more about the English crowds and fans these murders created as well as their legacies.
Beginning with Thomas DeQuincey (1785-1859) in late Georgian London. His use of Laudanum and its contributing factor to his essay, On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, began a sensationalist view of murder for its readers.
The Art of the English Murder is a brief historical record of several murders that happened during the 19th century. Some of them influenced writers. For example, Charles Dickens and Alfred Hitchcock.
The murders in the early 19th century brought about a central Metropolitan Police force in London, instead of individual parish police.
The murders recorded in this book are the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, Estrel Murder, William Corder and the Red Barn Murder, Bermondsey Murder, the Road Hill House Murder case, and the murders done by Jack the Ripper.
There are chapters devoted to the impact of the murders on writers. There are chapters devoted to screenwriters and film. The final chapters are the mystery writers, specifically the women who made a name for themselves: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh. There is also information on the history of the Penny Dreadful serial stories and the Wax Museum.
I enjoyed reading this book, but I’d hoped for more. My hopes were that the book would go into more detail about the murder cases-including the detective work on those cases. I love to read true crime books. This book is brief about the murders. It is extensive about the impact on people who have a morbid sense of excitement about viewing the murdered bodies, etc. I don’t want to see the bodies who are carved up and oozing. I do enjoy reading about the crimes and how the murders are solved. However, The Art of the English Murder is a good book. A solid narrative nonfiction account.
What I love (and learned):
1. The introduction gave me the reason for this book and the direction of it.
2. I didn’t know the history of police and detectives in London until reading this book.
3. The perspective of how citizens viewed dead bodies is explained as not out of the ordinary for that time. I didn’t know this.
4. I feel the book is thorough in the impact on writers, screenwriters, films, and magazines.
5. Medical students used to dig up dead bodies to do research. I didn’t know this either!
6. Lucy Worsley is a charming, personable, knowledgeable, and engaging person. Whether she is speaking in a documentary or has written a book: both are engaging and entertaining!