A grisly, grim slog through the history of Victorian murder, punctuated occasionally by intriguing historical lessons.

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THE INVENTION OF MURDER

HOW THE VICTORIANS REVELLED IN DEATH AND DETECTION AND CREATED MODERN CRIME

Flanders (Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain, 2006, etc.) attempts to trace the growth of murder and its detection in Victorian England.

The author does not track the history of crime-solving during this period; most crimes were solved by the simple expedient of someone pointing a finger. The accused had very few rights, and those who couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer were on their own. Flanders devotes most of her book to murders—one after another after another, many sensational, others notable for the innocence of the executed. Since the author does not present the murders chronologically, it’s difficult to tell if the murder trials had any effect on the evolution of the rights of defendants. Instead, Flanders organizes the text according to who killed whom: husband/wife, servants/employers, etc. The author demonstrates the significance of the press in the investigations of the murders. From the beginning of the 19th century, broadsides and “penny dreadfuls” were circulated immediately after an event. Those and the newspapers of the time readily admitted that truth was irrelevant—profit was the goal. Their treatment of the accused depended largely on their social class. Theaters and authors profiled victims and events from the news of the day. Charles Dickens was the most prolific of these, using incidents and even quotes in many books, including Bleak House and Oliver Twist. Though Flanders ably follows the important role played by the media, readers seeking information about the establishment of the first police force or detective department, or laws passed to protect defendants, should look elsewhere.

A grisly, grim slog through the history of Victorian murder, punctuated occasionally by intriguing historical lessons.

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02487-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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