"From award-winning biographer Claire Harman, [this book] is the fascinating story of a Victorian-era murder that rocked literary London, leading Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and Queen Victoria herself to wonder: Can a novel kill? Early in the morning of May 6, 1840, on a highly respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed. The whole of London, from monarch to street urchins, was soon gripped by the crime's gory details--and panicked by its significance. For behind the Russell murder was another story, the part played in the crime by the season's most sensational novel, Jack Sheppard, the saga of an unrepentant thief who escaped from justice time and again. The book, by William Harrison Ainsworth, had already sparked a crime wave in the capital, and when Lord William's murderer claimed to have been corrupted by the tale, it ignited a fierce debate about writers and morality that drew Dickens and Thackeray, both at the beginning of their careers, into the fray. Harman combines a riveting whodunit with a literary scandal that involved the most famous writers of the day. Impeccably researched and beautifully crafted, Murder by the Book is an utterly beguiling read that sheds new light on a notorious historical mystery and the enigmatic path from virtue to the gallows."--Dust jacket. "From the prize-winning biographer--the fascinating, little-known story of a Victorian-era murder that rocked literary London, leading Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and Queen Victoria herself to wonder: can a novel kill? In May 1840, Lord William Russell, well known in London's highest social circles, was found with his throat cut. The brutal murder had the whole city talking. The police suspected Russell's valet, Courvoisier, but the evidence was weak. And the missing clue lay in the unlikeliest place: what Courvoisier had been reading. In the years just before the murder, new printing methods had made books cheap and abundant, the novel form was on the rise, and suddenly everyone was reading. The best-selling titles were the most sensational true-crime stories. Even Dickens and Thackeray, both at the beginning of their careers, fell under the spell of these tales--Dickens publicly admiring them, Thackeray rejecting them. One such phenomenon was William Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard, the story of an unrepentant criminal who escaped the gallows time and again. When Courvoisier finally confessed his guilt, he would cite this novel in his defense. Murder By the Book combines the thrilling true-crime story with a illuminating account of the rise of the novel form and the battle for its early soul between the most famous writers of the time. It is a superbly researched, vividly written, fascinating read from first to last"-- Provided by publisher.