inventIt is interesting that in the 21st Century we are still obsessed with Victorian-era crimes. Notably, tales of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd – the demon barber of Fleet Street – still capture our imagination. And Sherlock Holmes, the great detective from literature of the era, is in many ways as popular as ever in the public’s consciousness. But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time before the Victorian Era when murder and detective work were not nearly as sensational or scientific.

So how did our obsession with true life crime become a thing? Well, that is a question I never thought to ask until I came across the book, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime, by Judith Flanders. In her well-researched book, Ms. Flanders explores those sensational crimes and how they changed the way people thought of murder, the police, and justice – and how it created the genre of crime fiction that is so popular today.

About The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders: “In this fascinating exploration of murder in nineteenth century England, Judith Flanders examines some of the most gripping cases that captivated the Victorians and gave rise to the first detective fiction. Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama-even into puppet shows and performing dog-acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other-the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell.”

The Invention of Murder is another example of how real life leads to great fiction and how fiction becomes history.

The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders is available from Amazon and other fine book retailers.