BOOKS: ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR MARX

PETER ACKROYD FUZZES THE LINE BETWEEN FACT AND FICTION, AS HE RETURNS TO VICTORIAN LONDON FOR A HEADY WHODUNNIT

During one remarkable scene in The Trial of Elizabeth Cree (Doubleday; 261 pages; $22), three men sit side by side in the Reading Room of the British Museum. Gathered together by chance on this foggy September morning in 1880 are Karl Marx, of whom the world will hear more in the coming decades; a young novelist named George Gissing, destined for some success but nothing like Marx's influence; and John Cree, who has inherited enough money to spend his days in earnest research into the conditions of the London poor. So, what happens next? Well, the three men ... read their...

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