The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective
The dramatic story of the real-life murder that inspired the birth of modern detective fiction.
In June of 1860 three-year-old Saville Kent was found at the bottom of an outdoor privy with his throat slit. The crime horrified all England and led to a national obsession with detection, ironically destroying, in the process, the career of perhaps the greatest detective in th...more
This is an amazing book. Rarely have I read a book which has been so meticulously researched. There is an unbelievable amount of detail about the origins of official police detective work, the personalities involved, the journalism of the mid-nineteenth century, the Kent family of Road, the famous and not-so-famous people of that time, and the continuing history of the characters involved into the twentieth century.
So, if I think that this book's...more
YET, it was much less riveting than my beloved Death at the Priory. It was impossible not to compare the two Victorian murders and Death at the Priory wins hands down. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher was dry as dust and spent far too much time comparing the historical person, Mr. Whicher, with the development of the burgeoning genre of detective novels l...more
It seems Kate Summerscale felt a need to give us every niggling detail she was able to dig up about the murder, its coverage by the press at the ti...more
I suspect part of the problem is that as a former true crime aficionado I knew everything Summerscale wrote about in this book. Some of the detail from the maids was new, but for the most part there was nothing new in this book for me, down to the lay out of the house to the man who foun...more
If you like detective novels...
If you are interested in the development of the novel...
If you have any interest in the development of the science of forensics...
If you like true crime...
If you enjoy good factual writing...
If you like a good story...
... then this book has it all. It's like the author asked me to write a list of all the things I like to read most, shook them up in a shaker and came out with the perfect book.
I drove my husband nuts while I...more
Ostensibly the book is about the murder of three year old Saville Kent who was found in an outhouse with his throat slit and the detective who first identified the guilty person. A number of readers, who have previously read about this crime were disappointed because there wasn’t a lot of new information in the book. I think this alwa...more
So here's the deal: the research was thorough, the writing - scientific, unimaginative and drowned in endless details. Not to mention the characters, w...more
I didn't pay for 200 pages of what read like some friggin mediocre senior honors thesis. I don't care about how the murder turned up in Wiklie Collins, I don't care what Dickens thought about the crime, I don't care which novels it inspired. This book was just saturated with end-notes, footnotes, and quotes ... not that they were distractin...more
That said, the mystery is excellent (with genuine clues, red herrings and all): and Inspector Whicher is as enthralling...more
Summerscale does a really good job of pacing the book just like your typical mystery book might be paced. And the fact that nothing contained within is fiction, is all the more impressive.
She also interweaves discussions on how this particular murder and its main detective, Mr. Whicher, went on to inspire nearly all future detective fiction, as...more
Whicher figures it out, but his conclusion isn't supported by much evidence and the accused is let off. Whicher is soon hounded out of the police force, but five years later the accused...more
Nowadays when every other new television show is some detective/crime drama, we take the genre for granted. "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher," is both a mystery/crime novel and an academic history book. It relates the story of a Victorian manor house murder (before it was a genre), and the attempt to solve the mystery by one of England's first real Scotland Yard detectives.
Summerscale does a terrific job of juggling different genres; manages to maintain the suspense and mystery of the actual murd...more
The crime itself was revolti...more
From the very first lines of Kate Summerscale's award winning account of the Road Hill Murder, the reader knows that a riveting journey lies ahead.
"This is the story of a murder committed in an English country house in 1860, perhaps the most disturbing murder of its time. The search for a killer threatened the career of one of the first and greatest detectives, inspired a 'detective fever' throughout England, and set the course of detective fiction. For the family of the victim, it was a murder...more
Years ago, in my sophomore year of college, I read a book about L...more
She won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction in 2008 with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House and won a Somerset Maugham Award in 1998 (and was shortlisted for the 1997 Whitbread Awards for biography) for the bestselling The Queen of Whale Cay, about Joe Carstairs, 'fastest woman on water'.
As a journa...more
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(Editorial, The Times, 22 July 1853)”