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Murder: The Biography

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Totally gripping and brilliantly told, Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder. 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 Vic Totally gripping and brilliantly told, Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder. 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


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Totally gripping and brilliantly told, Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder. 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 Vic Totally gripping and brilliantly told, Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder. 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

30 review for Murder: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    The lawyer Kate Morgan writes a detailed and well researched British history of murder laws and the developments in the law through time, this is one for both true crime enthusiasts and anyone else interested in this fascinating and so often grisly subject of murder, intentional and accidental. It touches on crime and punishment, justice and injustice, notorious serial killers, and other critical cases that changed the law, and the relevance that persists to the present day of the Elizabethan an The lawyer Kate Morgan writes a detailed and well researched British history of murder laws and the developments in the law through time, this is one for both true crime enthusiasts and anyone else interested in this fascinating and so often grisly subject of murder, intentional and accidental. It touches on crime and punishment, justice and injustice, notorious serial killers, and other critical cases that changed the law, and the relevance that persists to the present day of the Elizabethan and Jacobean figure of Sir Edward Coke's definitions and difference between murder and manslaughter in the criminal justice system. It highlights how shifts in public opinion and changing social norms and attitudes led to significant reforms in the law, after famous cases such as that of the abused Ruth Ellis's shooting of her feckless and faithless lover, she was convicted of murder and hanged. We learn of the starving crew of the Mignonette eating the sickly cabin boy in order to survive, the incompetent Dr Bateman and the cover up that followed the death of a female patient, and the unofficial legal acceptance of duels, under specific engagement rules, seen through the scarcity of murder convictions, primarily of benefit to the upper classes and the military. In Edinburgh, we see the first use of the defense of not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, raising the issue of just how mad do you have to be? Through time this led to the first specialist institution for the criminally insane, Broadmoor, whose residents have included gangster Ronnie Kray and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. Tragedies, such as Aberfan, the Marchioness disaster, Hillsborough, and the continuing present day inquiries into the horrors of the Grenfell fire chart the development of corporate manslaughter and negligence. The distinctions in the laws between murder and manslaughter remain a grey and problematic area in the courts, incorporating self defence, provocation and extenuating circumstances, sometimes straying into victim blaming. The development and use of diminished responsibility has helped to free abused women like Sally Challon. What is particularly intriguing culturally and in real life is how the public can both revile and admire murderers, encapsulated in the popularity of songs such as Mack the Knife and Delilah. This is a insightful glimpse into the grim and darkest history of the most heinous of crimes that I think will appeal to many readers. Highly recommended. Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Spencer

    Rounded up from around 3.5 stars ⭐️ Murder: The Biography is a non-fiction book discussing how various cases of homicide have changed the laws in the UK. I admit, as a true crime enthusiast I was completely sold by the title and blurb of this book. Non-fiction is not usually my thing, but I learnt so much from this book that I did not know before. Kate Morgan has meticulously researched the cases in this book and discussed many that I knew nothing about previously. Her passion for the topic is di Rounded up from around 3.5 stars ⭐️ Murder: The Biography is a non-fiction book discussing how various cases of homicide have changed the laws in the UK. I admit, as a true crime enthusiast I was completely sold by the title and blurb of this book. Non-fiction is not usually my thing, but I learnt so much from this book that I did not know before. Kate Morgan has meticulously researched the cases in this book and discussed many that I knew nothing about previously. Her passion for the topic is displayed so clearly in her writing, at times speaking for those who can no longer speak for themselves. So many important topics were raised in this book in relation to how they’ve changed the laws, and what still needs to be improved. As a warning to true crime fans, this book focuses mainly on the law, rather than focusing on the crime itself. This at times was a little difficult for me to read and I often found myself losing focus. However, I have had an extremely busy few weeks whilst I was reading this, so it is possible that my hectic schedule also impacted my ability to focus. As a teenager I had wanted to go into criminal law, but found it too dry for my personal tastes. However, Morgan makes the dry topic of law accessible and easy to understand, seamlessly untangling common misunderstandings of the law. I want to thank Readers First, Harper Collins and Kate Morgan for allowing me to read this book and give my personal thoughts. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in the law around murder.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review 💀 Murder: The Biography examines the definition of murder, and the often convoluted and complicated way in which the term has been applied and shaped throughout British history. It closely examines those important cases which have influenced the change in the law surrounding murder and the challenges often faced by judge and jury in convicting murderers. Because sometimes it's never as clean cut as a life for a life. This covers so many different topi ARC received in exchange for an honest review 💀 Murder: The Biography examines the definition of murder, and the often convoluted and complicated way in which the term has been applied and shaped throughout British history. It closely examines those important cases which have influenced the change in the law surrounding murder and the challenges often faced by judge and jury in convicting murderers. Because sometimes it's never as clean cut as a life for a life. This covers so many different topics under a complicated legal system that has had to evolve in the wake of social changes. We start in Tudor times with the first definition of murder and premeditative intent, following on to Georgian duals, Victorian medical negligence and the introduction of manslaughter charges. Some of the cases are really interesting, especially the chapters that offer a real moral conundrum in convicting individuals for murder - such as maritime cannibalism, and mental instability. I also rather liked the chapter on corporate manslaughter - which I didn't realise was such a new edition in law in the first place. It's quite scary to think that companies can be fined more for environmental damage than the taking of human life through poor health and safety measures. Aberfan, the sinking of the Marchioness, Granfell...all are brought up in relation to the introduction of corporate manslaughter and how the law has changed because of the tragedies that happened. I did think that the over arcing evolution of provocation charges which lead to murder in men (often used as a 'red mist' analogy) and women in abusive relationships could have been expanded on a little. We read of a few cases of diminished responsibility charges used in appeals for women charged with the murder of partners, but I really wanted some more cases. There's probably enough to make a whole book on the subject matter to be honest. I also found the writing a little dry at times, especially when deep diving into criminal law. As I've said, it's a very messy subject area, and sometimes the complicated descriptions of laws got a bit dull. However, I did find the writing very accessible on the whole and kept my interest piqued throughout. Facinating look into the evolution of murder and law in Britain with some incredibly interesting cases. I learnt a lot, and would highly recommend to anyone looking to further their studies into true crime in the UK.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joey Woolfardis

    An utterly beguiling read about one of the most controversial and complicated matters in human nature: murder. Kate Morgan-a lawyer-has researched murder and the laws around murder in British history to within an inch of its life. It is so well-written as to feel slightly novelesque in that each case that Morgan shares with us-cases that have shaped the very letter of the law in Great Britain-is dealt with so well as to share only the facts of each and not turn it in to what in fiction can often An utterly beguiling read about one of the most controversial and complicated matters in human nature: murder. Kate Morgan-a lawyer-has researched murder and the laws around murder in British history to within an inch of its life. It is so well-written as to feel slightly novelesque in that each case that Morgan shares with us-cases that have shaped the very letter of the law in Great Britain-is dealt with so well as to share only the facts of each and not turn it in to what in fiction can often just be a plot device. Non-Fiction is difficult to rate as one uses these books to gain knowledge from another: another whom should have a greater understanding of the topic and yet do not always. Kate Morgan's credentials speak for themselves, and her manner of writing conveys this even more. All of the examples cases felt relevant, whether they were particularly gruesome, vile, morbid or perhaps understandable and none of them ever felt like they'd be specifically chosen by Morgan to create any kind of shock or brutality within the piece.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eule Luftschloss

    trigger warning (view spoiler)[ cannibalism, suicide, rape, child death, infanticide, cruelty towards animals, kidnapping, domestic abuse (hide spoiler)] This is the history of the deed of murder in the UK, starting in the middle ages and reaching the post-modern times we find ourselves in. The author gives a comprehensible, easily accessible and extremely readable chronology of the law changes and the cases that made these changes neccessary, treating the people they talk about with great tact an trigger warning (view spoiler)[ cannibalism, suicide, rape, child death, infanticide, cruelty towards animals, kidnapping, domestic abuse (hide spoiler)] This is the history of the deed of murder in the UK, starting in the middle ages and reaching the post-modern times we find ourselves in. The author gives a comprehensible, easily accessible and extremely readable chronology of the law changes and the cases that made these changes neccessary, treating the people they talk about with great tact and respect. I really liked that in the foreword, the author outlined the content of this book, gave the geographical restrictions, and delved into the etymology of the word murder. While at first, I missed the footnotes - there are some with bonus information - at the end of the book there's a bibliography sorted by chapter, and most sources are the official case files. Additionally, this was an uncorrected proof, so who knows how the finished result looks. I learned weird facts I don't really need to know, and I always love that. Did you know that the term cold-blooded murder goes back to duelling times? If people had a row and reached for weapons immediately, that's hot-blooded, but if they make an effort to set time, place and arrange secundants, and if then someone happens to be killed, that's cold-blooded because they have had time to cool down and still chose to do this. I liked this book a lot and would recommend it to either true crime fans, people interested in weird history or readers interested in English law. The arc was provided by the publisher.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lucie Morningstar

    A well researched and written insight into how our legal views on murder have developed through the years using the cases which brought about these changes to our laws and sentencing. Kate Morgan has been able to make the intricate world of law and murder accessible as well as interesting. This was engaging and informative from the first page and really made me more aware of how complicated it can be deciding how to charge someone (or even a company).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bookclubforme

    I must admit I always find nonfiction tricky to review but here goes... Putting the UK murder law under the spotlight, by delving into both past and modern cases and explaining how different crimes have each paved the way for change, 𝘔𝘶𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳: 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘪𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘩𝘺 explores exactly how, when and why the law of murder in the UK has been altered, over the years. Fascinating, extensively researched and at times down right gruesome, it's not a book for the faint hearted. With discussions ranging from grisly de I must admit I always find nonfiction tricky to review but here goes... Putting the UK murder law under the spotlight, by delving into both past and modern cases and explaining how different crimes have each paved the way for change, 𝘔𝘶𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳: 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘪𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘩𝘺 explores exactly how, when and why the law of murder in the UK has been altered, over the years. Fascinating, extensively researched and at times down right gruesome, it's not a book for the faint hearted. With discussions ranging from grisly details of particular cases, the differences between the charges of murder and manslaughter, to the question of insanity and diminished responsibility - nor is it what I'd call an easy read, but there's definitely a lot to sink your teeth into! I found the stories incredibly interesting, learning of the ways in which these crimes and those who committed them contributed to (sometimes much needed) changes within the law, leaving me with a better understanding of our modern law today. There is the mention of some well known names, but actually, I found I had no previous knowledge of many of the individuals nor their crimes, which I found surprising considering the laws in which they changed! I came away having learnt something new. A must read for anyone with an interest in either true crime or law - the way in which it is written, makes it just as binge worthy as any Netflix documentary! 🔪💀

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen Mace

    This was a fascinating and detailed exploration of the art of Murder! The infamous, and not so famous, cases over the years that have shaped the way we view murder and how the lines blur from case to case, showing up the gaps in law that can't cope with the dark and disturbing acts committed by humans. The author has done a brilliant job of looking back over time at a number of different cases over hundreds of years. How crimes have changed and how the punishments too have differed over the years This was a fascinating and detailed exploration of the art of Murder! The infamous, and not so famous, cases over the years that have shaped the way we view murder and how the lines blur from case to case, showing up the gaps in law that can't cope with the dark and disturbing acts committed by humans. The author has done a brilliant job of looking back over time at a number of different cases over hundreds of years. How crimes have changed and how the punishments too have differed over the years. From the death penalty to the use of secure hospitals for those claiming mental instability. Some of the cases I'd heard of so they did resonate, but I was equally fascinated by the cases that had passed me by showing the dark and disturbing and it does a brilliant job of opening topics up to debate - from the appeal system, the difference between murder and manslaughter and how we all become 'armchair lawyers' when a high profile case hits the media. And even goes into how crimes cross over into films and tv, and how the public fascination with these horrific crimes never seems to wane. I learnt so much from this book - including the background to the phrase 'sweet fanny adams' to what used to be built on the site of Liverpool Street Station - along with a greater understanding of the process behind the scenes and how cases are dealt with and I found it to be a real eye-opening read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Murder: The Biography may surprise people who haven’t read the blurb, as the book actually looks at the way the British legal system looks at murder and the way it has changed over time. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting (though it does make this clear in the blurb as mentioned) though it was a pleasant surprise as I actually really enjoyed learning about the cases that changed the legal system and the impact the legal system subsequently had on other cases. The book is well researched and the Murder: The Biography may surprise people who haven’t read the blurb, as the book actually looks at the way the British legal system looks at murder and the way it has changed over time. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting (though it does make this clear in the blurb as mentioned) though it was a pleasant surprise as I actually really enjoyed learning about the cases that changed the legal system and the impact the legal system subsequently had on other cases. The book is well researched and the author obviously intelligent and knowledgeable. The parts that will still excite the majority of readers will be the more grisly cases, as is the morbid fascination in murder I imagine will attract the majority of casual crime readers to this book. Particularly interesting was the case of the 3 seamen lost at sea who killed and ate the cabin boy to survive and the subsequent legal case that followed. I do think however it should be titled ‘homicide: the biography’ as it feels like at least 50% of the cases and analysis actually looks at manslaughter rather than murder itself. While the book makes clear there can be at times a fine line between the two (and of course, it’s worthwhile to look at manslaughter as a result) I felt there was too much time spent looking at manslaughter and negligence cases against doctors, governing bodies and companies – especially towards the end of the book where in most cases there is no suggestion that anybody actually deliberately murdered anyone, which this book is about. Overall, it’s a fascinating and accessible insight into the history of homicide in the eyes of the law, that really gave me some valuable knowledge in a book I enjoyed reading. I’d still recommend it, and it’s expertly written, I just would have liked a little more murder.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ange

    I really enjoyed this book. Written to show how the law of Murder has been categorised and changed throughout the history of the English legal system. Kate Morgan uses real life cases to demonstrate the changes in perspective and laws, as society changes. The writing was easy to follow and flowed through out the book. Some of the cases are the ones we see in the headlines, still to this days, others are the historic murders that. started the changes in the law. I was really interested that Corpor I really enjoyed this book. Written to show how the law of Murder has been categorised and changed throughout the history of the English legal system. Kate Morgan uses real life cases to demonstrate the changes in perspective and laws, as society changes. The writing was easy to follow and flowed through out the book. Some of the cases are the ones we see in the headlines, still to this days, others are the historic murders that. started the changes in the law. I was really interested that Corporate Manslaughter was discussed and included insight into such incidents as Piper Alpha and Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster. There were legal terms used and there is a handy glossary in the back and all the case law that was used for the research, for those who will no doubt be delving deeper. It is not just a book for the legal minded. If you have any interest in history, sociology or true crime, I would recommend this book to you. In fact as I was reading I was messaging people I know telling them they need to read this. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC of this book for my honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emma Hardy

    Ooooh this is good. Packed with true crime stories across the UK and how it impacted society, legislation and future verdicts. Kate really knows her stuff as fact after fact is thrown at you and each is impactful, insightful and fascinating. Discusses wider societal issues such as Aberfan and Hillsborough but similarly tackles head on case study cases that shape and make our laws. From women subjected to domestic violence, murder v manslaughter, and some just truly gruesome; this has it all. If Ooooh this is good. Packed with true crime stories across the UK and how it impacted society, legislation and future verdicts. Kate really knows her stuff as fact after fact is thrown at you and each is impactful, insightful and fascinating. Discusses wider societal issues such as Aberfan and Hillsborough but similarly tackles head on case study cases that shape and make our laws. From women subjected to domestic violence, murder v manslaughter, and some just truly gruesome; this has it all. If you are the sort of person to watch every crime doc on Netflix, this is the read for you. Little bit intrigued but daunted? Dive in. Truly absorbing and fascinating.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Newsholme

    This was a fascinating and extremely well researched book looking at the history of murder in Britain; more specifically, the legal definitions and criminal cases that brought us to the where we are now. Far from being a salacious look at all of the famous murderers of the past, this is instead a thoughtful history of the crime itself from a legal standpoint beginning with the anglo-saxon penalties and travelling through the landmark cases that have made substantive changes to the law code. Not This was a fascinating and extremely well researched book looking at the history of murder in Britain; more specifically, the legal definitions and criminal cases that brought us to the where we are now. Far from being a salacious look at all of the famous murderers of the past, this is instead a thoughtful history of the crime itself from a legal standpoint beginning with the anglo-saxon penalties and travelling through the landmark cases that have made substantive changes to the law code. Not for everyone, I personally thought this was excellent and will definitely read future works from Kate Morgan. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jenn L

    A whistle-stop tour of the law of murder from the 1700s to now! I really enjoyed this non-fiction book; I thought the balance between grisly crime details and case law was spot-on. Overall this is a fantastic overview of the development of the law of murder over the many years. I would recommend it to anyone interested in true crime. [I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review]

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Could probably have done with being titled Homicide: The Biography, since it spent as much time talking about manslaughter and negligence and corporate liability as murder, but still a very good read!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Giovanna Walker

    Very insightful. Well written, the 'dry' legal detail is minimal, interspersed with cases, and all explained very well. Interesting to read about the genesis of the charge of murder, and an insight into how the law 'works' (or doesn't!). Also helped me understand why the law doesn't always keep up with society. Our politicians have some work to do - get to it! Very insightful. Well written, the 'dry' legal detail is minimal, interspersed with cases, and all explained very well. Interesting to read about the genesis of the charge of murder, and an insight into how the law 'works' (or doesn't!). Also helped me understand why the law doesn't always keep up with society. Our politicians have some work to do - get to it!

  16. 4 out of 5

    lafemmeabsurde

    I think this is the perfect "palate cleanser" if you always stick to a genre and wanna read something else for a change and yet something of value. Because this darling book is gonna stick. It will also be the best Halloween present ever (for adults)!!!! Only after finishing the book I found out that Kate Morgan is in fact a lawyer (I read books on instinct, I'm not a blurb person and I have fared well just like that) so it all kinda fits. Morgan doesn't limit herself to the monotonous verdicts a I think this is the perfect "palate cleanser" if you always stick to a genre and wanna read something else for a change and yet something of value. Because this darling book is gonna stick. It will also be the best Halloween present ever (for adults)!!!! Only after finishing the book I found out that Kate Morgan is in fact a lawyer (I read books on instinct, I'm not a blurb person and I have fared well just like that) so it all kinda fits. Morgan doesn't limit herself to the monotonous verdicts and journalistic reports of five hundred years ago. She takes you by the hand to the psychological and humane aspects of these deeds in all their absurd glory. Note : This book was kindly made available to me in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Abbie-Jane Mercer

    Whilst the actual facts and history are fascinating this seems very drawn out and not overly engaging

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (not currently receiving notifications) Hall

    Murder: The Biography is lawyer Kate Morgan’s comprehensive account of UK murder law, from its early origins through to the landmark real-life cases which have contributed to its development and the changing attitudes of society that have shaped it. The book also illustrates how murder is far less black and white than we often imagine it to be and given that in reality not all murders are created equal, it has proven in practice a far more slippery concept for the justice system to prosecute. Be Murder: The Biography is lawyer Kate Morgan’s comprehensive account of UK murder law, from its early origins through to the landmark real-life cases which have contributed to its development and the changing attitudes of society that have shaped it. The book also illustrates how murder is far less black and white than we often imagine it to be and given that in reality not all murders are created equal, it has proven in practice a far more slippery concept for the justice system to prosecute. Beginning with a consideration of society’s seemingly insatiable appetite for murder with the origins of murder ballads such as ‘Mack the Knife’ and following its progression through to today’s obsession with true-crime podcasts, the book is extraordinarily wide-ranging. The history dates tight back to the Viking landing in the ninth century and the gradual emergence of a concept that loosely translates as a secret killing. From there Kate Morgan recounts the first attempt at a definitive statement of the law, including tackling the contentious legal dividing line between murder and manslaughter, made by renowned jurist Sir Edward Coke in the first half of the 17th century. Encountering some extraordinary cases along the way, from the little known to the infamous, the book is an enlightening look at homicide in the twenty-first century. Cases include that of Daniel M’Naughten and the consideration of his sanity at the time of committing a crime with the implementation of the ‘M’Naughten Rules’ to define the criminally insane that are still used today. The first defence of necessity is also illustrated with the case of the crewmates of cannibalised cabin boy, Richard Parker, in a rather macabre Victorian example and the story of Dr Percy Bateman, the doctor whose botched procedure changed the law on manslaughter, is also featured. Issues such a diminished responsibility and its tricky history is clarified and the question of provocation is exemplified by the hanging of Ruth Ellis and the groundswell of public unease surrounding the history of abuse she suffered. Morgan also sets out the case of Derek Bentley and the joint enterprise conviction that saw him hang and was subsequently overturned. Atrocities which drew collective public horror, including that at Aberfan, Hillsborough, the Grenfell tower fire and the sinking of the Marchioness all feature with the book looking at corporate manslaughter and also the matter of death by dangerous driving. Meticulously researched and impressively detailed, the book is hugely accessible and Kate Morgan writes engagingly with a focus on the colourful cases that hold readers attention in a way that a dry recounting of facts could never hope to. Whilst there are some notably gruesome and macabre stories featured along the way, the focus is on the implications that these have had, and how they have contributed to altering UK murder law. It is definitely not the right book for readers after a gratuitous history of infamous UK cases and it is also a book that the reader has to actively engage with, and think about, to get the best out of. I came away having been entertained and satisfied that I had learnt far more than i envisaged.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    This truly IS a concise biography of murder throughout the ages, from defining the various classifications of such an act to exploring an appropriate punishment for those committing it. Thankfully, even with our liberal lives today, most of our basic morals remain intact and we appreciate murder is very wrong on every level. We now also know this macabre subject is incredibly nuanced, more nuanced than the average law abiding person would give consideration to, and as society evolves so too does This truly IS a concise biography of murder throughout the ages, from defining the various classifications of such an act to exploring an appropriate punishment for those committing it. Thankfully, even with our liberal lives today, most of our basic morals remain intact and we appreciate murder is very wrong on every level. We now also know this macabre subject is incredibly nuanced, more nuanced than the average law abiding person would give consideration to, and as society evolves so too does its understanding as to why someone may be driven to take a life. The emphasis is: there’s no longer a ‘no one size fits all’ approach. In the past, every murderer received the same sentence, but we are aware that the reasons driving each individual are not always equal. The author offers notorious examples of cases where offenders are responsible for taking a life (or lives) for self-preservation, psychiatric illness, self defence, corporate negligence, or even as a serial killer. Each tragic case gave me pause to reflect that although ‘murder’ will always end with the loss of life, every person on trial may have different intent, provocation, and state of mind when they committed their crime. All these factors will determine their fate. There are also many instances of how these factual cases may have influenced or refined our justice system. One thing’s for sure, striking the balance between law breakers and law makers is a challenging and delicate task that can often take many decades to set in motion. Hugely fascinating. Highly recommended. (I received a ‘belated’ copy of this title courtesy of the publisher, with my thanks, which is was my pleasure to voluntarily read and review.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jasmin

    I’d always assumed that there was a dichotomy between murder and manslaughter. Murder is a deliberate act, while manslaughter is, well, not deliberate, right? Right? No. Homicide isn’t as black and white as most true crime aficionados and armchair lawyers seem to think it is. In Murder: The Biography, writer and lawyer Kate Morgan takes her readers on a fascinating journey through time. With Morgan as our guide, we travel from an era where a killer could simply pay their victim’s families whatever I’d always assumed that there was a dichotomy between murder and manslaughter. Murder is a deliberate act, while manslaughter is, well, not deliberate, right? Right? No. Homicide isn’t as black and white as most true crime aficionados and armchair lawyers seem to think it is. In Murder: The Biography, writer and lawyer Kate Morgan takes her readers on a fascinating journey through time. With Morgan as our guide, we travel from an era where a killer could simply pay their victim’s families whatever price the victim’s life was deemed to be worth right up until the 20th and 21st centuries, where entire new sub-categories of homicide were introduced to reflect the complexities of such acts. The entire book is a fascinating read, but my favourite sections were those in which Morgan discusses the cases that brought about sub-categories such as manslaughter by gross negligence. The case that saw manslaughter by gross negligence being introduced into UK law is beyond horrifying. I honestly couldn’t get it out of my head for days, so much so that when I called my grandparents for a catch up, one of the first things that I said to my grandad was something along the lines of, “So, do you know how manslaughter by gross negligence came about? Do you? No? Well, let me enlighten you…” As I try to make my reviews as spoiler free as possible, I won’t say anything about that particular chapter of the book other than this: make sure you read it on an empty stomach. Another thing that I really liked about Murder: The Biography is the fact that Kate Morgan is respectful. True crime stories fascinate me, but there have been times when I’ve stopped listening to a particular podcast or switched off a documentary because of how sensationalist they’ve been. I’ve often found that creators of such content forget the victims of the crimes that they’re discussing, but this isn’t the case with Kate Morgan. She never loses sight of the lives lost and this honestly makes for a refreshing change. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Murder: The Biography and highly recommend it to anyone interested in both legal history and true crime.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Toni Kely-Brown

    True crime is very popular with hundreds of documentaries, podcasts, YouTube channels and dramas dedicated to it – but its usually the “rare” type of murder that is covered and captures our imagination. Serial killers and organised crime, when the reality is, most murders are committed by everyday people for a range of everyday reasons, although sadly many homicides against women are by their current or former partner (not the stranger in the dark). Murder: A Biography covers murders committed fr True crime is very popular with hundreds of documentaries, podcasts, YouTube channels and dramas dedicated to it – but its usually the “rare” type of murder that is covered and captures our imagination. Serial killers and organised crime, when the reality is, most murders are committed by everyday people for a range of everyday reasons, although sadly many homicides against women are by their current or former partner (not the stranger in the dark). Murder: A Biography covers murders committed from the 9th century through to today through the British legal system (and as Australia inherited this system it was very relevant). She discusses cases that resulted in precedents for provocation, insanity, diminished responsibility and manslaughter, as well as the evolution of murder from the individual to corporations responsible for large scale deaths due to negligence or carelessness. Whilst, the author, dosen’t use a lot of legal jargon (which was great) her writing style was a bit dry and academic at times. However, it was an interesting read and I recommend it for those with an interest in legal history and/or crime.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon

    As I am currently studying Criminology, I found this book very interesting. I have always had an interest about true crime and I religiously watch all the Netflix documentary’s so this was right up my street. Murder: The Biography explores what murder is and how the law has evolved over time. There is a mixture of real-life cases, how murder is less black and white than what it seems, and how the law has changed throughout the years. Kate Morgan is a lawyer as well as a writer, so you can tell t As I am currently studying Criminology, I found this book very interesting. I have always had an interest about true crime and I religiously watch all the Netflix documentary’s so this was right up my street. Murder: The Biography explores what murder is and how the law has evolved over time. There is a mixture of real-life cases, how murder is less black and white than what it seems, and how the law has changed throughout the years. Kate Morgan is a lawyer as well as a writer, so you can tell that she has a true passion about this topic. It felt very well researched and each case had so much detail. I have read many true crime books and this one is by far one of the best as you can tell that Morgan really knows what she is talking about. If you are a fan of true crime, a law or criminology student or are just looking for a really interesting book, then I would really recommend this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    MarthaSquishy

    A really interesting exploration of the history of the law of murder and the law surrounding homocide. Each chapter looks at the law’s development surrounding killers and their victims with cases that helped that change occur. It was very accessible with a glossary at the back for more archaic or legal terms, and was written in an engaging way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Really enjoyed this, exploring the history of murder and the legislation that has developed around it over centuries. Could be a really dry read but it’s really engaging and well written.

  25. 4 out of 5

    teleri

    Wow. What can I say about this book? How about, the author is compassionate and understanding. It's such a refreshing change when reading about murder victims and not have to read slander spread all of their names. Kate Morgan did such a fantastic job of being respectful, yet informative and it was great. I listened to the audiobook for the majority of the book, and the narrator was such a fantastic pick. Emilia Fox's voice just suited the book so well and spoke with the right amount of compassio Wow. What can I say about this book? How about, the author is compassionate and understanding. It's such a refreshing change when reading about murder victims and not have to read slander spread all of their names. Kate Morgan did such a fantastic job of being respectful, yet informative and it was great. I listened to the audiobook for the majority of the book, and the narrator was such a fantastic pick. Emilia Fox's voice just suited the book so well and spoke with the right amount of compassion, which made listening to the book feels so much more interesting. This book features a whole range of crimes, that takes place in different centuries, and I enjoyed that. It peaked my interest so much about all the different ways someone could be charged with murder or get away with it. From the cannibals who killed and ate a crewmember to survive to the Aberfan disaster. I cannot recommend this book enough.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Arianna

    I should start by saying that books on history are not usually my bag. However, I was instantly intrigued by this one as I, like many others, find the crime of Murder rather fascinating. I always devour the Netflix true crime documentaries and was hoping this book would prove just as fascinating. This book looks less at the crimes themselves and more about how murders throughout history have changed the laws surrounding murder. I really appreciated how easy it was to read this book. There was no I should start by saying that books on history are not usually my bag. However, I was instantly intrigued by this one as I, like many others, find the crime of Murder rather fascinating. I always devour the Netflix true crime documentaries and was hoping this book would prove just as fascinating. This book looks less at the crimes themselves and more about how murders throughout history have changed the laws surrounding murder. I really appreciated how easy it was to read this book. There was no rambling or complicated writing. It is written in such a way that anyone could read this. You need to know nothing about the law of murder in order to enjoy this. It was also interesting to read about murderers that are not widely known about and how they have changed the law around murder so completely. Thanks to Readers First for providing me with a copy of this in return for my honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Rose

    Rating this a 3 stars. (Audiobook) This book follows how the laws around murder has changed throughout the centuries from the origin of the word murder to various crimes that have been committed in the past 100 years or so. It does make a very interesting listen, especially when hearing about those crimes. The book was very well detailed to the point where I think it was “too” detailed. It focused a lot on the legislation and law side of the crimes which in honesty, I wasn’t expecting. I thought Rating this a 3 stars. (Audiobook) This book follows how the laws around murder has changed throughout the centuries from the origin of the word murder to various crimes that have been committed in the past 100 years or so. It does make a very interesting listen, especially when hearing about those crimes. The book was very well detailed to the point where I think it was “too” detailed. It focused a lot on the legislation and law side of the crimes which in honesty, I wasn’t expecting. I thought it was just going to be about the actual murder, focusing more on the crimes and the victims, but it wasn’t. It was quite brief when mentioning about the murders cases which is a shame because I found them really interesting. Overall I found the book okay, it was narrated well and you can tell that a lot of time and research went into the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eloise Mohan

    This book is a neatly written timeline of the laws surrounding murder/ manslaughter. Starting pre victorian times, leading right up to today, Kate discusses the cases that have changed the way we look and think about the law. Hurdles from legal terminology to the grey areas and blurred lines, this book prompts lots of thoughts and discussions about why it took such tragedies for us to realise the shortcomings of the CJS. I particularly liked the broadness of this book with topics from individual s This book is a neatly written timeline of the laws surrounding murder/ manslaughter. Starting pre victorian times, leading right up to today, Kate discusses the cases that have changed the way we look and think about the law. Hurdles from legal terminology to the grey areas and blurred lines, this book prompts lots of thoughts and discussions about why it took such tragedies for us to realise the shortcomings of the CJS. I particularly liked the broadness of this book with topics from individual serial killers to corporate manslaughter. I did have to take my time to get through it all as I wanted to focus and process the information properly. The legal terminology may become overwhelming for some readers, but the notes and glossary at the back are a brilliantly useful touch. Highly recommend this book to anyone interested in law and true crime.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Radley

    Wow what a book!!! This tells the story of Murder through the law courts and how it’s changed over time and how most of it still has elements of the past than we might think. How “murder” is looked at and has become a lot more than just the act of killing someone you have manslaughter and homicide and other such terms to contend with. Along with the cases that’s looked through it all speaks of not just the high profile serial killers but the sad, tragic and most of the time almost accidental of Wow what a book!!! This tells the story of Murder through the law courts and how it’s changed over time and how most of it still has elements of the past than we might think. How “murder” is looked at and has become a lot more than just the act of killing someone you have manslaughter and homicide and other such terms to contend with. Along with the cases that’s looked through it all speaks of not just the high profile serial killers but the sad, tragic and most of the time almost accidental of killings come under the radar. This book is soo intriguing and fascinating, that if you are true crime fan then this book is one you have to read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Swords & Spectres

    I won this book in a giveaway. This has in no way influenced my feelings. 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: I won this book in a giveaway. This has in no way influenced my feelings. 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. 

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