But it's not exactly the best example to dwell on the connection back to Ainsworth's story is tenuous , it's just the best known of many crimes that people claimed were inspired by the story. I wish Harman had taken a bigger look here, if this murder were just one chapter of a larger story rather than its center, I think the glue would have held together better across the book.
Societal hysteria around media that makes people commit violent acts is a fascinating phenomenon that still continues today and I would have really enjoyed a deeper dive. Russell's murder alone is not enough for an entire work and distracts from the central questions left mostly unexamined. In , the body of Lord William Russell was discovered in bed by his maid.
His throat had been slit so severely his head was almost detached. The subsequent investigation focussed mainly on the Swiss valet who had only recently come into Russell's employ. The case was a sensation because society was in the grip of true crime fever, brought about by Ainsworth's novel on Jack Sheppard. This was an interesting tale because there are many similarities to how the media behaves today, blaming everyt In , the body of Lord William Russell was discovered in bed by his maid. This was an interesting tale because there are many similarities to how the media behaves today, blaming everything from heavy metal to video games for an increase in crime figures.
Jun 01, Fran Blake rated it it was ok. An interesting story, but not developed enough.
Lots of famous authors appear in these pages, but somehow the book feels almost like an outline. This is an historical true crime novel, so may not be to the taste of those who prefer fictionalised plots and characterisations. However, I found it well-researched and intriguing.
Critchley into similar non-fiction territory - in their case the Ratcliff Highway murders, which occurred some three decades prior to the murder of Lord William Russell in , which This is an historical true crime novel, so may not be to the taste of those who prefer fictionalised plots and characterisations. Critchley into similar non-fiction territory - in their case the Ratcliff Highway murders, which occurred some three decades prior to the murder of Lord William Russell in , which is the subject of this book.
Despite the difference in time period, there are clear similarities between the crimes. Both the Ratcliffe Highway and Russell murders generated a frenzy of panic and intrigue in the London populace at the times they occurred, and thus both are examples of investigations fuelled by speculation in the print media and complicated by the offering of sizeable government and private rewards prior to the perpetrator being apprehended.
The revelations out of the Russell murder trial generated a fierce debate in London literary circles over the morality of depicting criminals as heroes or figures of mainstream entertainment. This blurb is a bit of a hoodwink. While the book itself does indeed broach the subject of how novels at the time contributed to the murder of Lord William Russell, the only contemporary writer directly related to the crime was W.
Then again his name isn't as prevalent as the likes of Dickens or Thackeray so I do see why they were included in the blurb as tantalisers. Then again the fact that Ainsworth has largely been forgotten to history and due to the infamy of his Newgate Novel ' This blurb is a bit of a hoodwink. Then again the fact that Ainsworth has largely been forgotten to history and due to the infamy of his Newgate Novel 'Jack Sheppard' is itself fascinating to me. It certainly shows that the public fear of violence in films and videogames affecting the youth of today is far from new or unprecedented.
However this is primarily a True Crime book and I am glad to say that Harman writes about the murder, arrest, trial and overall mystery with well-laid facts and intelligent storytelling. She has clearly seen this crime and punishment tale's potential for wider discourse. Then again I do feel that this was necessary, considering how straightforward the murder and incarceration proved to be. Compared to the complexity of other True Crime plots, the investigation arrived early at one clear suspect and a confession with minimal effort, especially considering the limits of the Victorian police.
If you have an interest in the grisly side of Victoriana then I highly recommend this book. If you can forgive the fact that Dickens' involvement is not so great as promised, then I recommend it even more so. Jun 11, Becky Loader rated it it was ok. In , the violent murder of a minor Lord takes place in a very safe neighborhood. Very dry. Apr 14, Karen Germain rated it really liked it. In , Lord William Russell, a well-to-do senior citizen, was found nearly decapitated in his bed at his London residence. Courvoisier admitted guilt, but his testimony was often conflicting and although he was ultimately In Murder by the Book, Claire Harman explores a horrific Victorian England crime that captivated the country.
Courvoisier admitted guilt, but his testimony was often conflicting and although he was ultimately sent to the gallows for the crime, there has been doubt as to whether or not he was the actual murderer, or if so, did he have an accomplice? Much as there is a current trend for blaming video games, music, and movies for violence in our society, there was a similar situation occurring in Victorian England.
In particular, there was one Newgate Novel that rose to controversy with the murder of Russell: Jack Sheppard.
Written by William Harrison Ainsworth, Jack Sheppard, is the true crime tale that Courvoisier claims gave him the idea to murder Russell. Jack Sheppard was a huge part of pop-culture, which beyond the book, also was told through multiple stage plays, may of which were an inexpensive form of entertainment that all segments of society could enjoy and did so, by seeing the productions multiple times. The idea of a servant turning on their employees, especially in such a brutal fashion, was a panic at the time and led to even more criticism of Jack Sheppard and the Newgate Novel genre.
Dickens in particular became a strong opponent of public hangings, his thought being that the damage done by the public witnessing an execution, is greater than its act as a deterrent against criminal behavior. The last public hanging in the United Kingdom would occur just a few decades later. The way Harman describes the festival atmosphere around the execution is chilling. A very interesting fact that Harman mentions is that a doctor wrote to Scotland Yard with an idea that finger prints might be used to identify the true murderer.
This was before finger printing was used and the idea was dismissed, not be used until fifty years later. Harman mentions that had finger printing had been around, other Victorian era crimes, such as Jack the Ripper, might have been solved. The crime is shocking, but the real fascinating element is how the crime informed public debate over art and social policy, such as executions. Does glorifying violence lead to violence? I think mental health is likely the missing puzzle piece and by his own admittance, Courvoisier claimed to have been in a rage. At the time Phrenology, the pseudoscience of studying skull shapes to analyze mental traits, was all the rage.
Of course now, Phrenology is not only disproven, but also associated with racism and the goal of proving superiority with certain races.
Murder by the Book: A hub for crime, mystery stories for nearly 40 years
However, it is interesting to note that even if the Victorians were on the wrong track with Phrenology, the idea of exploring mental imbalance and its association with violent behavior was of importance. Murder by the Book is a compelling read for people who can handle the gory details!
Like my review? Check out my blog! Claire Harman documents the night of the murder, the crime itself his throat was cut presumably while he was sleeping , the investigation, trial, hanging and aftermath. This is interspersed with an account of the role that William Harrison Ainsworth's novel Jack Shephard played in inspiring the murder, by depicting a criminal as a hero in a genre then known as Newgate novels. Different pirated versions of Jack Shephard were also playing as plays simultaneously at multiple London theaters.
Another writer who also wrote a book that depicted the criminal life plays a big role in Harman's book, Charles Dickens. He was at pains to distinguish Oliver Twist from the "Newgate" label, according to Harman after the criticism of the entire genre made more of an effort to distance himself from it in future novels starting with Barnaby Rudge which was writing at the time , and thus he diverged from Ainsworth with two initially parallel novelists going very different directions in their abilities and history's memory of them.
Dickens himself was very absorbed by the entire genre, writing letters to the editor about it, going to the execution an event that features prominently in his biographies , partly turning it into fiction, and then into an argument against public executions. Overall, the book was relatively short and interesting, steeped in its time, murder, Victorian London, and the early part of Dickens's career.
But the links between the murder and the book were a little weak and not every detail was equally interesting. Nov 06, Rhiannon Johnson rated it really liked it. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. Russell was found on a May morning by his maid, with his throat slit so severe Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Russell was found on a May morning by his maid, with his throat slit so severely that his head was almost completely detached. The upper class neighborhood where the murder occurred was suddenly in a panic, and so was all of London when the murderer claimed to have been inspired by a newly released novel. Featuring several of the key literary figures of the time including Dickens, Poe, and Thackeray Murder by the Book will have you thinking about life imitating art, censorship laws, copycat killers, and the sensationalism of murders in the media.
Apr 01, Meade rated it liked it Shelves: penguin-first-to-read. As a fan of Dickens and Victorian lit in general, I found this book very intriguing. I love hearing stories that place creative works in the context in which they were developed, and Harman does a great job of providing a background plot and details that help the reader understand the social environment of the times and the politics that were pulling on these writers.
I was not familiar with the "Newgate"-type stories and the detrimental reception they had after being impugned in some serious cr As a fan of Dickens and Victorian lit in general, I found this book very intriguing. I was not familiar with the "Newgate"-type stories and the detrimental reception they had after being impugned in some serious crimes.
The mystery laid out here is not exactly a page turner, and Harman's style is more research than story, but she does a good job of sharing the details that are relevant to the link between the crime and the literature. I did have a little trouble keeping track of some of the names, and fewer of the minor references may have helped.
Overall, a solid and interesting book that left me with a clearer understanding of Victorian times and challenges. I received a copy of this book from Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review. A delightful mashup of true crime and my favorite genre, books about books. It also gets at the class worries of upper class London with the grisly murder of a harmless old man in the ways of British aristocracy, Lord William Russell was pretty innocuous by his valet GASP.
Does life imitate art? This crime procedural book explores such a crime that was eventually blamed on the influence of a book. Though Dickens is mentioned prominently in the subtitle, he merely makes a few contributions to the historical record here, and perhaps the most important development is that an execution is documented in his contemporary novel, Barnaby Rudge. However, this is a good read for the case, which reads like something out of Downton Abbey, and the very plausible "real story" th Does life imitate art?
However, this is a good read for the case, which reads like something out of Downton Abbey, and the very plausible "real story" that Harman documents here for the first time. Fun, never too heavy, good diverting read for fans of the early Victorian era. Mar 31, Darcysmom rated it liked it Shelves: netgalley. I was prepared to love everything about Murder by the Book: true crime, Victorian England, and the rise of the novel. Unfortunately, I found my attention wandering as I worked my way through the book. The various elements never came together in a cohesive way for me.
I appreciate the rigorous research undertaken by the author, and think that many people will find Murder by the Book is their cup of te I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and Knopf for free in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate the rigorous research undertaken by the author, and think that many people will find Murder by the Book is their cup of tea.
There is an attack on one of the masters at a In the summer of Matthew Bartholomew finds himself one of a party of Bishop's Commissioners, sent north to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the Abbot of In the summer of the physician Matthew Bartholomew returns to Cambridge to learn that his beloved sister is in mourning after the unexpected death of her husband, Oswa In , over a century after its foundation in Cambridge, the college of Michaelhouse is facing a serious shortfall of funds and competition from upstarts rivals such as Z Identifying the murderer of the Chancellor of the University is not the only challenge facing physician Matthew Bartholomew.
Many of his patients have been made worse by th We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them.
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