Nicola's Reviews > The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Or the Murder at Road Hill House

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale
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's review
Jul 01, 2010

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bookshelves: history, crime, non-fiction

In The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale reexamines a murder that took place in a sleepy English village during the 19th century -- a case that captured the popular imagination and inspired a slew of fictional 'country house' murder mysteries.

The resulting book works better as a history of detective fiction than as an account of true crime. The book is so minutely detailed that the pace is on the slow side, and the final reveal about the murderer is a long time coming and shrouded in ambiguity. Also, an unfair criticism, but worth mentioning nonetheless: the Road Hill House murder has been reinvented by fiction authors a thousand times in the past 150 years, making the real tale feel hackneyed.

However, as a snapshot of life in Victorian England, which boasted a brand-new pack of police detectives, such as the eponymous Mr Whicher, it's interesting stuff. Read it for the clearly-presented history, but don't expect to be riveted.

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