The stories and the people involved in the history of murder are stranger, darker and more compulsive than any crime fiction.
There’s Richard Parker, the cannibalized cabin boy whose death at the hands of his hungry crewmates led the Victorian courts to decisively outlaw a defence of necessity to murder. Dr Percy Bateman, the incompetent GP whose violent disregard for his patient changed the law on manslaughter. Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England in the 1950s, played a crucial role in changes to the law around provocation in murder cases. And Archibald Kinloch, the deranged Scottish aristocrat whose fratricidal frenzy paved the way for the defence of diminished responsibility. These, and many more, are the people – victims, killers, lawyers and judges, who unwittingly shaped the history of that most grisly and storied of laws.
Join lawyer and writer Kate Morgan on a dark and macabre journey as she explores the strange stories and mysterious cases that have contributed to UK murder law. The big corporate killers; the vengeful spouses; the sloppy doctors; the abused partners; the shoddy employers; each story a crime and each crime a precedent that has contributed to the law’s dark, murky and, at times, shocking standing.
Author: Kate Morgan
Release Date: 29/04/2021
My Chosen Format: Hardback
My Rating of ‘Murder: The Biography’: 5 out of 5
I won this book in a giveaway. This has in no way influenced my feelings.
Just to clarify for my non-UK readers, the book pertains to UK murder law, as stated in the blurb.
This is, quite easily, the best book I have read in a long while. It’s possibly my favourite non-fiction book. This is because it manages to take the topic of law and not only make it really interesting and accessible (literally anyone, no matter your level of understanding or interest in law can get enjoyment out of this), but Kate got me hooked to the extent that I was just absolutely miserable that it had to end.
Murder: The Biography takes you on a journey from the inception of the murder law and the many, many, many changes it has undergone over the centuries. It, like most crimes in the way they are committed, has evolved over the centuries and so, too, must the law. With the advent of motor vehicles and huge health and safety-ignoring corporations, springs up new and previously unthought of ways for people to lose their lives. Thus, new and previously unforeseen tweaks and evolutions to the laws surrounding a crime and its punishment must be made. This book charts the most important instances that led to such reforms of law and it does so in a way that, dare I say, is incredibly fun to read (never thought I’d say that on a book of law. Bravo, Kate Morgan. Bravo.)
Each chapter focuses on a different method/classification of murder and how some of the cases led directly to the changing of the law that surrounds the ultimate crime. The in-depth looks into said crimes are incredibly interesting and, amongst some of the more famous instances (such as Richard Parker, the unfortunate cabin boy who was cannibalised so that his fellow crewmates might live) there are a plethora of other cases that I’d never heard of. It’s also surprising how so many things in every day life have their route in murder, be it songs or phrases.
What sticks out the most is Kate’s writing style. She writes in such a way that you forget you are reading a subject that is filled with difficult words and riddled with Latin phrases, because she writes it in such a way that anyone can pick it up and get fully immersed, regardless of whether your school taught you a dead language or not.
Overall, upon finishing the book I was left with a desire to learn more about law (again, not something I thought I’d be saying, so bravo again, Kate Morgan) so will certainly be looking out for such books in the future. Especially if Kate pens any more. They would probably just be instant-purchases.
It also has the most gorgeous cover of any book I’ve read in a heck of a long time … bravo to the cover artist. Bravo all round. All of the bravos.