The Art of the English Murder (Hardcover)

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Murder—a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nation-wide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria's lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, prose and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern England, murder entered our national psyche, and it's been a part of us ever since.The Art of the English Murder is a unique exploration of the art of crime—and a riveting investigation into the English criminal soul by one of our finest historians.

About the Author

Lucy Worsley, PhD is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in England. Please visit

Praise For…

Lively. Worsley’s goal isn’t to provide a history of crime or crime writing, but to show how the British enjoyed and consumed the idea of murder.

Worsley's book covers a great deal of ground and provides an excellent overview of how the consumption of crime became a dominant part of our cultural landscape.


Worsley explains England's love affair with scandals, lurid murders and executions, exhibit[ing] her exceptional knowledge of social and literary England. Simply put, murder was the TV of the Victorian era, an escape from everyday woes. Worsley ably shows how audiences drove writers, actors and purveyors of news to satisfy their morbid curiosities.

Fascinating. This riveting cultural history will enthrall fans of British crime novels as well as readers of true crime.

Lively, lucid, and wonderfully lurid. Worsley's vivid account excites as much as its sensational subject matter, and edifies, too, thanks to her learned explications.

Irresistible. Crisp, clear and good to the last sentence.

Worsley captures this bloody love affair very well.

A brief, absorbing history lesson on how the UK’s obsession with bloody deeds changed not only methods of law enforcement, but fertilized the roots of modern popular culture.

The fictional detective is part of our way of seeing the world now, and this is an amusing book to show how our fascination with murder (which we ought to find nothing but repellent) made it happen.

Worsley retells the stories of famous murderers and legendary criminals in delightfully readable language, with sharp, illuminating comments.

Nicely illustrated with 16 pages of mostly color pictures and other B&W pictures throughout, this book is a delightful romp through the most iconic staples of Victorian life: Sherlock Holmes, Madame Tussaud’s waxworks, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I recommend reading this at night with a strong cup of tea. Just keep your lights on, and the doors locked.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781605986340
ISBN-10: 1605986348
Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Publication Date: October 15th, 2014
Pages: 336
Language: English