Books, Music & Movies · The Invention of Murder

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The Invention of Murder:How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

Judith Flanders

Social historian Judith Flanders contends that murder was not very common in 19th-century gaslit England, but its citizens were nonetheless intrigued by it. Sensationalized cases like the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway killings and Jack the Ripper gave rise to murder in opera, theater, fictionalized stories called “penny dreadfuls” (like The String of Pearls featuring Sweeney Todd), and even puppet shows. Meanwhile, the founding of Scotland Yard, London's famous police force, gave rise to Dickens’ Inspector Bucket in Bleak House and of course, Sherlock Holmes, who in turn influenced writers like P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell.