A Very British Murder

There simply are not enough shows on the telly about books, fact! So when one does come along invariably I will watch it just because it is about books, occasionally though one comes along that is so up your street and so brilliant you want to tell everyone about it. This is exactly how I feel about ‘A Very British Murder with Lucy Worsley’ the second episode of which is on tonight on BBC Four at 9pm and which I insist you watch. But here is a teaser, without spoilers, of why (if you missed it) the first episode was so brilliant…

Lucy Worsley, who hosts the show, is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces where she puts on exhibitions like ‘Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber’ which is currently on at Hampton Court Palace. She is also a writer of several historical non-fiction books the latest of which just so happens to be ‘A Very British Murder’ and is now on my bedside table to be read between bouts of ‘The Luminaries’ (which I am still making very slow progress on bit by bit) though for the purposes of this post I moved it by the telly as you can see below…

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You can tell you are in good hands with Lucy, and that she loves a good book, as before the opening credits of the first show have rolled she states “Grisly crimes would appal us if we encountered them in real life, but something happens when they are turned into stories and safely places between the covers of a book.” It is of course the history of the British crime novel which this series celebrates, from Dickens to Christie and onwards, and to start it all Lucy looks at the first real cases of murder (The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, The Murder in the Red Barn and The Bermondsey Horror) which really got the public talking about murder and gave them an appetite for the salacious and sensational, which authors of course switched onto and as ‘the Detective’ was born, so of course was ‘the Detective novel’.

Well I was spellbound for an hour. I have since been recounting several people will facts like ‘did you know that in 1810 only 15 people were convicted of murder?’ or ‘did you know of The Bermondsey Horror and that Maria Manning was Charles Dickens inspiration for Hortense in ‘Bleak House’?’ It has made me desperate to go off and find some old ‘Broadsides’, newspapers/pamphlets solely aimed at chronicling the most horrid of murders for the public, also Thomas DeQuincy’s essay ‘On Murder’ from 1810 and dig out some modern books, which didn’t get mentioned on the show, like ‘The Maul and the Pear Tree’ by P.D James and Thomas A. Critchley (a non-fiction about the Ratcliffe Highway Murders) and Nicola Upson’s new novel ‘The Death of Lucy Kyte’ (a fiction with shadows of The Murder in the Red Barn). Plus with autumn in the air here in the UK I have been pondering dusting off some Wilkie Collins etc and bringing back a sensation season myself! I love it when TV makes you want to switch it off and read a book instead, don’t you?

Suffice to say Lucy is marvellous, and brilliantly camp or ghoulish when required which makes it all the more enjoyable, as she hosts often sat beside a fire making you feel like she is almost telling you a bedtime story brimming with murder in itself, which I suppose it is really. Anyway if me going on and on about its brilliance wasn’t enough I will just mention the facts that Simon Callow is on it tonight as we discover what the Dickens, erm, Dickens thought and was inspired further by and Kate Summerscale will be on discussing the case which inspired ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’. What more could you ask for on a Monday night?

20 Comments

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20 responses to “A Very British Murder

  1. Omg, I’m a HUGE fan of Lucy Worsley and have downloaded this on iplayer. I’m so excited about this series because it’s all about murders and books, two things I’m crazy about. I also love her other historical programmes which are both informative and so much fun. Can’t wait to read the book too.

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings

    It *is* great fun, isn’t it? Looking forward to tonight’s episode very much (particularly the Dickens).

  3. I enjoyed this last week ,all the best stu

  4. I saw the episode last week, right up my street! Bet the book is great too.

  5. Hadn’t spotted this – am now watching last week’s episode. Very interesting (although as a side note I am counting Lucy’s outfit changes).

  6. Lucy Worsley is one of the best people on TV right now, I love her, more people like her talking about history and books please. I didn’t realise there was a book, I want that now!

    • Well I hope you have got it or have it on your Christmas list. I have actually not ended up reading it, very bad of me – but I will. I would like Lucy to have her own channel.

  7. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I will be catching up on this show on iplayer – it sounds right up my street. It also reminds me that I should get back to reading The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders – sounds like the two might be good companions.

  8. Hi
    If you enjoyed that (I did too!) You might like Judith Flanders book The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and detection and created modern crime. It covers all this stuff beautifully

  9. I love this. And I’m enjoying seeing Joan Hickson as Miss Marple afterwards too. I’d forgotten just how good that series was.

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