"Rosner's The Anatomy Murders is a welcome and valuable contribution to this field. It is the first full-length scholarly study of the Burke and Hare case, and it draws on a formidably wide range of original archival research to reveal previously unrecognized aspects of this case and to correct common misapprehensions about a number of the victims and events. Rosner's book is an impressive combination of exhaustive archival analysis and a page-turning good read."—Journal of the History of MedicineUp the close and down the stair,
"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
On Halloween night 1828, in the West Port district of Edinburgh, Scotland, a woman sometimes known as Madgy Docherty was last seen in the company of William Burke and William Hare. Days later, police discovered her remains in the surgery of the prominent anatomist Dr. Robert Knox. Docherty was the final victim of the most atrocious murder spree of the century, outflanking even Jack the Ripper's. Together with their accomplices, Burke and Hare would be accused of killing sixteen people over the course of twelve months in order to sell the corpses as "subjects" for dissection. The ensuing criminal investigation into the "Anatomy Murders" raised troubling questions about the common practices by which medical men obtained cadavers, the lives of the poor in Edinburgh's back alleys, and the ability of the police to protect the public from cold-blooded murder.
Famous among true crime aficionados, Burke and Hare were the first serial killers to capture media attention, yet The Anatomy Murders is the first book to situate their story against the social and cultural forces that were bringing early nineteenth-century Britain into modernity. In Lisa Rosner's deft treatment, each of the murder victims, from the beautiful, doomed Mary Paterson to the unfortunate "Daft Jamie," opens a window on a different aspect of this world in transition. Tapping into a wealth of unpublished materials, Rosner meticulously portrays the aspirations of doctors and anatomists, the makeshift existence of the so-called dangerous classes, the rudimentary police apparatus, and the half-fiction, half-journalism of the popular press.
The Anatomy Murders resurrects a tale of murder and medicine in a city whose grand Georgian squares and crescents stood beside a maze of slums, a place in which a dead body was far more valuable than a living laborer.
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.