Book Reviews

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

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List Price: £1.99


Kindle Edition: 320 Pages.

Published: 12 September 2013 by BBC Digital



This is the story of a national obsession.

Ever since the Ratcliffe Highway Murders caused a nation-wide panic in Regency England, the British have taken an almost ghoulish pleasure in 'a good murder'. This fascination helped create a whole new world of entertainment, inspiring novels, plays and films, puppet shows, paintings and true-crime journalism - as well as an army of fictional detectives who still enthrall us today. A Very British Murder is Lucy Worsley's captivating account of this curious national obsession. It is a tale of dark deeds and guilty pleasures, a riveting investigation into the British soul by one of our finest historians.


5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars  by Anne

Very entertaining social history

This book was apparently written to accompany a BBC television series which I haven’t seen – I didn’t feel that this impaired my understanding or enjoyment of the book at all.

In this book the author attempts to describe for the reader the historical development in Britain of the idea of murder as entertainment. She discusses the growth in interest in headline grabbing murders from the late 18th century onwards. Following on from this she shows how the interesting real-life crime feeds into the development of crime fiction up until the so-called Golden Age before the Second World War. This book is remarkably easy to read and fascinating in the material that it considers. I had never really thought before about how murder has become entertainment in this country but the author shows that particular aspect of the British

character and culture. This is not a particularly deep book and should the reader wish to consider any of the points raised in-depth then they may need to look elsewhere for more details but as an overview this is a fascinating book written in an easy to read way.

The link between real-life crime and fictional crime was not obvious to me before I read this book but now it seems self-evident. The author considers a large number of real-life crimes although most of these are very well known and if you have any interest in the subject you will probably have read about them elsewhere. She is not looking at the actual crime or its investigation but how it is betrayed in the media and how ordinary people react to it - none of this is particularly edifying but nor is it surprising for those who read British tabloids.

The crime fiction considered here really concentrates on all that written before the Second World War. As I have a working knowledge of most of the books and authors that she uses as examples I found this particularly interesting. This is not a scholarly work so do not expect her to use examples which are particularly obscure and nor do you need to consult the footnotes to understand what is going on. This is a work of generally accessible social history which explores the development of an aspect of British culture in a very entertaining manner.

If you are interested in true life crime or in the development of crime fiction then I think you will find this a very enjoyable read. The author references a lot of other books on similar subjects and there is a full bibliography at the end so if you wish to consider the matter further

then there is plenty of recommended reading. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley.

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