Vic­to­rian Mur­ders

Real Crime - - Reviews - Re­leased out now au­thor Jan Bon­de­son pub­lisher Am­ber­ley avail­able in pa­per­back

Vic­to­rian news­pa­pers such as The Il­lus­trated Po­lice News, the pre­cur­sor of to­day’s tabloids, are a key source of in­for­ma­tion for crime his­to­ri­ans and writ­ers, with their blend of melo­dra­matic il­lus­tra­tions and breath­less re­ports of crimes. Here, Jan Bon­de­son utilises a pre­ex­ist­ing ‘ ledger’ of mur­ders drawn from news­pa­pers from the era.

Bon­de­son’s de­scrip­tions are based on how the down­mar­ket press pre­sented mur­der­ers and their vic­tims, but it would have been nice to have a bit more nuance: some anal­y­sis or ques­tion­ing of whether the por­tray­als re­flected con­tem­po­rary views of what a crim­i­nal should be like, rather than show­ing the com­plex­i­ties of Vic­to­rian crime and of­fend­ers. The au­thor deems mur­der­ess Mary Eleanor Piercey to be “a sin­is­ter young woman if there ever was one” and states that the Den­ham mur­derer demon­strated “stu­pid­ity and im­pru­dence”.

The book is am­ply il­lus­trated with draw­ings from the Vic­to­rian press – but again, there is no dis­cus­sion of how th­ese re­flected con­tem­po­rary tropes about crime and crim­i­nals, or how some were ‘ stock’ images rather than ac­cu­rate re­flec­tions. How­ever, it is a visu­ally at­trac­tive read.

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