The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher – Kate Summerscale

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The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is the true account of a Victorian murder mystery, committed in an English country house. This murder became the basis of many classic books written during this time period, including the first English detective novel, The Moonstone. It is meticulously researched, and full of interesting information, not just on the Road Hill House murder, but every day family life in the 1860s.

The facts are laid out in the same order Mr. Whicher discovered them, so as well as being extremely informative, this book also acts as a murder mystery. The great thing about this murder is that it took place within a locked building, so all the potential killers are immediately obvious, and it is just a case of unearthing all their secrets, and discovering which one committed the dreadful dead.

This book isn’t a quick, easy read. It is dense with facts that need time to be savoured, but I found it so interesting that I was never tempted to skip a single word.

I love the fact that the book went on to explain what happened to all the characters up to their death. It also includes photographs of all the key characters, and maps of house and surrounding area.

The only drawback to the book was that it gave away key plot points to many of the books which were written during this time period, or based on the Road Hill murder. This was great for all those to which I already knew the plot (eg. many of Dicken’s novels) but as I planned to read The Moonstone very soon, it was a little bit disappointing, (although I only have myself to blame, as I was aware that these would be within the book!).

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Victorian England, the development of the police detective, or who just loves a good whodunnit!


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7 Comments

  1. Joy says:

    Hooray! I’m glad to see that you liked this one a lot! I haven’t read it, but I’m eager to get to it. :)

  2. Sandy says:

    Mysteries from back around that time are intriguing. Many of the whodunnits of today can be pretty predictable. So many follow the same format, I lose track of which ones I read. That is not the case with the earlier ones. They were forging their own path back then!

  3. S. Krishna says:

    Ooh, thanks for the tip about it giving away plot points – now I know to read The Moonstone before reading this! Great review!

  4. Framed says:

    I’m glad I’ve already read the Moonstone (loved it) because I really want to read this book. Thanks for the review.

  5. Funnily enough, I didn’t enjoy the book at all. Found it too factual, almost like a student’s dissertation. It focused way too much on the way of life and the origin of detective work, which, while interesting, isn’t what the book initially promises. I was well disappointed.

    For what it’s worth, my diametrically opposite review of it:

    http://anothercookiecrumbles.wordpress.com/tag/kate-summerscale/

  6. Jackie says:

    uncertain principles – It’s really interesting to read a review that disagrees with mine! I often complain that non-fiction (or even fiction!) books are dry, boring and read like a reference book, but I didn’t find it to be the case with this one. I guess it was the fact that there was a murder mystery in the book too. I felt like I was the detective too, as I was given the facts in the order Mr. Whicher got them, so I was trying to work out who did it before he did!

  7. I agree – I think I was expecting something else from the book which is why it disappointed me. Also, the fact that for about 100 pages in the middle, Summerscale was talking about Detective Whicher back in London, which had almost nothing to do with the Road Hill House Murder.

    PS: bought the book at the airport, which might explain why it was more expensive.

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