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Murder by the Book: A Sensational Chapter in Victorian Crime

Claire Harman

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Viking
19 November 2019
Biography; True crime; British & Irish history; Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900; Violence in society
On a spring morning in 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a household of servants awoke to discover that their unobtrusive master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed.

The whole of London, from monarch to maidservants, was scandalized by the unfolding drama of such a shocking murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction. For when the culprit eventually confessed, he claimed his actions were the direct result of reading the best-selling crime-novel of the day. This announcement amazed the key literary figures of the time, from Thackeray to Dickens, and posed the question- can a work of fiction do real harm?
By:   Claire Harman
Imprint:   Viking
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 17mm
Weight:   208g
ISBN:   9780241346945
ISBN 10:   0241346940
Pages:   224
Publication Date:   19 November 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Claire Harman is the award-winning biographer of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1989), Fanny Burney (2000) and Robert Louis Stevenson (2005), the author of the best-selling Jane's Fame- How Jane Austen Conquered the World (2009) and of Charlotte Bronte- A Life (2015). She is Professor in Creative Writing at Durham University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Reviews for Murder by the Book: A Sensational Chapter in Victorian Crime

An endlessly fascinating, bookish tale of true crime in Victorian England . . . Lovers of Drood, Sherlock, Jack the Ripper, and their kin real and fictional will relish the gruesome details of this entertaining book. * Kirkus Reviews, starred review * Harman effectively uses a novelist's approach to recreate a now obscure 1840 English murder case that was a sensation at the time . . . By exploring concerns about the glorification of criminals in the fiction of the day and addressing some lingering mysteries, such as whether Courvoisier had an accomplice, Harman adds depth to a fascinating true crime narrative. * Publishers Weekly, starred review * A fascinating, exhaustively researched exploration into how art can influence society and vice versa, Murder by the Book turns an unflinching eye to the ways in which biases born of economic inequality affect the way crimes are investigated and prosecuted. It's a true crime devotee's delight * BookPage * An assiduously researched and superbly written book that ends with Harman examining unanswered questions, and reminding us that truth can be stranger than fiction * Minneapolis Star Tribune * Harman demonstrates a flair for distilling reams of research into a succinct, lively narrative. The book is an exemplar of how to write taut, issue-driven historical nonfiction. With an appreciation for pithy quotations, telling details and amusing gossip, she's quick to spot a fascinating aside . . . As riveting as this true-crime story is, what elevates Murder by the Book above sensationalism is its focus on how this case heightened concern over the malevolent influence of violent entertainment * Washington Post * Its opening scene is the stuff that classic murder mysteries are made of . . . Ms. Harman is a tireless researcher and a droll stylist * Wall Street Journal * Enthralling . . . A page-turner that can hold its own with any one of the many murder-minded podcasts out there * Jezebel * Enthralling * Oldie * There is enough ambiguity in the story of Russell's end to satisfy even the most ardent lovers of detective fiction, and Harman's enjoyment at piecing together the evidence is clear * BBC History Magazine * Harman resists sensationalising the murder... Instead, she offers a long view of the circular relationship between crime and literature * New Statesman * The book's heft lies in its rich detail...characters and settings are so vivid that Murder By The Book will surely soon be snatched up by television producers seeking their next Victorian crime drama * Daily Mail * A fascinating account.... As Harman skilfully reveals, the real story behind the famous murder is the complex one about the harmful influence of fiction on the mind of the reader. * The Times * A riveting investigation into a true and vicious murder that shocked Victorian London * Woman & Home * A fascinating portrait of Victorian London amid the rising popularity of the novel * The Observer * This beautifully produced and impressively researched historical account of a celebrated Victorian murder with a literary twist reads like a thriller. I devoured it in one sitting, and was at once enthralled and chilled. Highly recommended! -- Alison Weir [A] riveting investigation into a transgression that scandalised the literati of Victorian London in 1840. An engrossing fireside festive treat * The Bookseller * [Harman] is a storyteller, with a sense of pace and timing, relish for a good scene and a wry sense of humour * Economist * Vivid and punchy * Spectator * [A] scandalous Victorian mystery... Harman tells the story with clarity and vigour * Guardian Book of the Day * A brilliant piece of literary detective work * Evening Standard *


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