The clue is in the name really. Judith Flanders gives an in-depth account of the invention of murder. How it because a tool for financial gain and revenge. Her anecdotes are dark but she tells them with such humour. I mean, this period in history was ridiculous. The more common murder became the more popular it became with the masses. Not only did it get the killer riches but it also got them fame.
‘We are a trading community, a commercial people. Murder is doubtless a very shocking offence, nevertheless as what is done is not to be undone, let us make our money out of it.’ Punch
When killers were put on trial, they had to pay for it. They sold all of their possessions which suited Madame Tussaud’s just fine because they would buy it and charge the public to see it. Theatre’s would recreate crimes. Figurines were made. There was money in murder and Victorian England revelled in it. Flanders recognises this and looks back at it with remarkable wit. Reading this book will make you the life and soul of any party. A cab driver charged a gentleman per head for his trip not knowing there was a severed head in the box. He could have doubled his fee. Your friends and family will be in stitches.
The flip side to this was the police got better at solving murders. These events structured our police and justice system. Doctors got better at post mortems. Which was extremely helpless because we end the book with people who killed for the sake of killing. We end with the most famous killer of them all: Jack the Ripper. It’s a shame because the killer babysitter and ultra violet landlady just don’t have the same status. Maybe that’s because they were caught.
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