Andrew Lycett

Making A Killing

Mr Briggs’ Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain’s First Railway Murder

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Little, Brown 352pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The Unreliable Life of Harry the Valet: The Great Victorian Jewel Thief

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Century 304pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Talk about mysteries: why does the British public continue to lap up books on real Victorian crime? Surely it is not simply because writers now find the necessary research material, from The Times reports to Metropolitan Police archives, easily accessible on the web? And it is not as though these stories serve some warped paternalistic social purpose, along the lines of Dr Johnson’s argument for public executions: ‘Sir,’ he declared (so we are reminded by Kate Colquhoun), ‘executions are intended to draw spectators. If they do not draw spectators, they don’t answer their purpose.’

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