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A Very British Murder

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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 was surprised initially by the fact that the first few chapters were about real life murders a couple of centuries ago and the reporting of such in the news sheets of the day, rather than the literary treatment of the subject.

So did the Frederick and Maria Manning affair of 1847, the ‘Bermondsey Horror’, a rare episode in which husband and wife were executed together, for the killing of Maria’s lover.

From Jack the Ripper to the cosy crimes of the Golden Age, renowned historian Lucy Worsley explores the evolution of the typical British murder, to accompany a new BBC series. But how much did real murders, such as the sensational killings conducted by Dr Crippen, influence entertainment?

Literature began to pick up on murder and the horror associated with it and the Gothic novel was the first genre devoted entirely to creating feelings of horror, revulsion, awe and excitement. Būtume kitokie – nebūtų tų penktojo „Lietryčio“ puslapio skaitytojų (tiesa sakant, nebežinau, ar kriminalinės naujienos vis dar bazuojasi penktam puslapy – bet esmės tai nekeičia).Lucy has also written numerous other books, including Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion and Great Houses. It reminded me of some great mysteries I’ve read over the years and had me thinking of re-reading a few of them, and also reminded me of authors I have yet to try. There is, for example nothing about the development of the historical mysteries, which is now a significant sub-genre. She suggests that the subsequent theories about the crimes, which focus on privileged members of society, such as the Duke of Clarence, instead of considering that the perpretrator was a working class man native to the area, stem from perceptions originating from this drama which caused a huge sensation at the time. It is focussed less on actual crime but more on our fascination with it - and how in a lot of ways it became a source of entertainment for the public and inspiration for many fictional stories.

And it is the thriller, rather than the sedate and cerebral ‘Golden Age’ detective story, which dominates crime fiction to this day. From the start of the 19th century, a new form of entertainment developed that was based on the British obsession with death.

She also looks at crime fiction, from Dickens, to Sherlock Holmes and through the Golden Age of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. Maybe because it was originally written TV series the narrative does jump backwards and forwards a little at times but I still found it easy to follow the point the author was attempting to make in each of the twenty-four chapters.

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