Murder by the Book
Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
It was 6 May 1840 when Lord William Russell was found lying on his bed with his head almost severed, an act supposedly inspired by ‘Jack Sheppard’ a popular novel that was taking London by storm. Harman uncovers this story with enthusiasm and clarity, bringing to light eye-opening detail that has previously been unpublished. Prepare to be thrown right into the heart of one of Victorian London’s most gripping murder cases and find out for yourself: can a novel really kill?
‘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
Early in the morning of 6 May 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly 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 street urchins, was gripped by the gory details of the Russell murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction, and a fierce debate about censorship and morality. Several of the key literary figures of the day, including Dickens and Thackeray, were drawn into the controversy, and when Lord William’s murderer claimed to having been inspired by the season’s most sensational novel, it seemed that a great deal more was on trial than anyone could have guessed.
Bringing together much previously unpublished material from a wide range of sources, Claire Harman reveals the story of the notorious Russell murder case and its fascinating connections with the writers and literary culture of the day. Gripping and eye-opening, Murder by the Book is the untold true story of a surprisingly literary crime.
‘A fascinating portrait of Victorian London’ Observer
‘A brilliant piece of literary detective work’ Evening Standard
One of the Guardian’s ’50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018′
[A] scandalous Victorian mystery… Harman tells the story with clarity and vigour * Guardian Book of the Day * 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 Harman paints a vivid picture of London in thrall to the Jack Sheppard phenomenon…. a brilliant piece of literary detective work * Evening Standard * [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 *