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The Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh's Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science Who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous Crimes Hardcover – October 5, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0812241914 ISBN-10: 0812241916

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812241916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812241914
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lisa Rosner . . . has carried out a fascinating 'CSI' style investigation. . . . Her remarkable discoveries—told in her new book, The Anatomy Murders—[have] unraveled poignant details which bring to 'life' the personalities of some of the pair's unfortunate and, until now, largely anonymous victims."—Evening News, Edinburgh



"An engaging, readable, and comprehensive account of this famous case."—Journal of British Studies



"Rosner has delivered the definitive account in both detail and interest."—ForeWord



"This book provides us with a history of 1820s Edinburgh as much as it does of the Burke and Hare murders. The sense Rosner gives her readers of time and place is extraordinarily well done. Beautifully written."—Social History of Medicine



"This will be enjoyed by true crime fans as well as British history buffs. Engaging, atmospheric, and tantalizing."—Library Journal

About the Author

Lisa Rosner is Professor of History at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and author of The Most Beautiful Man in Existence: The Scandalous Life of Alexander Lesassier, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

More About the Author

Lisa Rosner is Professor of History at Stockton College in New Jersey. She is drawn to the seamy side of medical history through her love of murder mysteries, anatomy drawings, and Scotch whisky.

To learn more about the worlds of Burke and Hare described in The Anatomy Murders, visit The Worlds of Burke and Hare, http://burkeandhare.com.

Staff Recommendations, Politics and Prose: Jack the Ripper was--if you'll excuse me--a distant second to William Burke and William Hare of 19th century Edinburgh. Lisa Rosner, a professor of history, has brought them and their world to life in THE ANATOMY MURDERS. (University of Pennsylavania Press, $29.95) It was a widespread practice of the time to dig up corpses in order to sell them to medical men for dissection. Burke and Hare, with coldblooded ingenuity, realized they could simply skip the grave-digging, and in an atrocious spree murdered 16 people and delivered them to the anatomists--all in one year. Another crime novel? Not at all. This is a remarkably researched and riveting story of the Irish migration to Scotland, of the lives of Edinburgh's 'dangerous classes,' of the medical practices of the day, of the legal system and of Burke and Hare and their very real victims. I am full of admiration for Professor Rosner. This is a perfect book for a history buff with a slightly murderous heart. Reviewed by Jeanie Teare

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Downey on March 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book and if you are into 19th Century history with a twist of the macabre I suspect you will to. I would just advise that before you order just ask yourself how much information you want to know about the case, the era and the city in general. The reason I say this is because the Anatomy Murders goes beyond the story of Burke & Hare. In addition to the full account of the Westport murders, you get various history lessons regarding early Nineteenth Century Edinburgh.

Chapter one kicks things off with the last murder committed by the duo.
With the next seven chapters each starts out with Burke & Hare killing someone(s) and then the author takes us on an excursion through some facet of Edinburgh history as it relates to the story.
For example chapter two, entitled, "The Anatomy Wars" gives the details behind Burke & Hare's first sale and then delves into why there was such a lucrative traffic in cadavers in Edinburgh and who the players were.
Ch. 3 describes the socio-economic conditions in Edinburgh that helps explain not only why Burke & Hare did what they did but how they were able to prey on victims without fear of being caught.
Ch. 4 is the early life of Dr. Knox the purchaser of Burke & Hare's "subjects".
Ch. 5 tells the story of a young female victim who has, up until now, been called a prostitute and was supposedly recognized on the slab by a young lover. The author disproves this nearly two hundred year old story with new information she has culled from the archives.
Ch. 6 examines the criminal element at work in Edinburgh at the time.
Ch. 7 explores the medical college and actually delves into the dissecting of humans.
Ch.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on November 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The earlier reviewer confuses me with his odd reaction.
On first seeing this book I had intended to glance at it but found myself pulled into the dismal darkness of early Edinburgh, reading a true, not imagined, story of ruthless murders in the pay of early medical science. Indeed, my sense of the author's style was that I could not tell whether she was a writer who happens also to be a historian or a historian who also writes.
The murders are not presented as in a paperback with the uncovering of clues as the main matter, but they are brought forth in a way that leaves one feeling as if walking in the unsettling presence of the streets of Edinburgh nearly 300 years ago. No, the dead are not brought back to life, but the place and the time are called up with uncommon immediacy. And the dead are specific and real.
So the details, both the gory foreground and as importantly the time and place of the background, are evoked with such immediacy that I felt as if, like with a movie, I had entered those days and that city.
The fascination in this work was in no way diminished, at least for me, by the sense of how much I coincidentally learned in the reading. The writing was compelling; the horror was heightened by its reality; and the writing and the subject combined to leave this reader dashing ahead to see what was next. This book, which I had intended to add to the bottom of the pile on my table, became the first of that group I finished.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By WordGirl1968 on November 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't disagree more with the cantankerous reviewer below. Lisa Rosner's book is brilliant, readable, and worthwhile. The use of quotes didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the work a bit. By the way, I saw her speak at the Harvard Book Store last month and her presentation was fascinating.
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