From acclaimed biographer, Claire Harman--the fascinating, little-known story of a Victorian-era murder that rocked literary London, leading Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and Queen Victoria herself to wonder: Can a novel kill?
Harman brilliantly reconstructs the crime and its impact ... Murder by the Book does not read like a Victorian whodunit or 19th-century melodrama. Harman tells the story straight, without recourse to suspense or surprises. Instead she keeps us captivated through a series of hard facts and incredible events ... This is an assiduously researched and superbly written book that ends with Harman examining unanswered questions, and reminding us that truth can be stranger than fiction, particularly when inspired by it.
As in her biographies, Harman here demonstrates a flair for distilling reams of research into a succinct, lively narrative. The book is an exemplar of how to write taut, issue-driven historical nonfiction. With an appreciation for pithy quotations, telling details and amusing gossip, she’s quick to spot a fascinating aside ... Like the murderer, Harman goes for the jugular in her account of the investigation, trial and aftermath. Unfortunately — and somewhat frustratingly — she is unable to stanch the flow of unsolved mysteries surrounding the case ... As riveting as this true-crime story is, what elevates Murder by the Book above sensationalism is its focus on how this case heightened concern over the malevolent influence of violent entertainment.