I haven’t read much True Crime. I’ve read Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation – which was fabulous. Helen Garner is brutally honest about herself and her motivations. She is very much part of the story she tells. Kate Summerscale doens’t intrude into the story at all. It is written in a lovely conversational tone – very matter of fact, but compelling reading none the less.
Here is what Bloomsbury had to say about it …
It is a summer’s night in 1860. In an elegant detached Georgian house in the village of Road, Wiltshire, all is quiet. Behind shuttered windows the Kent family lies sound asleep. At some point after midnight a dog barks.
The family wakes the next morning to a horrific discovery: an unimaginably gruesome murder has taken place in their home. The household reverberates with shock, not least because the guilty party is surely still among them. Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard, the most celebrated detective of his day, reaches Road Hill House a fortnight later. He faces an unenviable task: to solve a case in which the grieving family are the suspects.
The murder provokes national hysteria. The thought of what might be festering behind the closed doors of respectable middle-class homes – scheming servants, rebellious children, insanity, jealousy, loneliness and loathing – arouses fear and a kind of excitement. But when Whicher reaches his shocking conclusion there is uproar and bewilderment.
A true story that inspired a generation of writers such as Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, this has all the hallmarks of the classic murder mystery – a body; a detective; a country house steeped in secrets. In The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Kate Summerscale untangles the facts behind this notorious case, bringing it back to vivid, extraordinary life.
This is an amazing story. You feel that it is somehow familiar, but that is just because so much detective fiction is based upon this case. I can almost imagine Miss Marple popping up with her knitting at some stage to solve it all neatly. It’s not neat though. Mr Whicher doesn’t even arrive on the scene until nearly two weeks after the crime. The local police seem incompetent (or maybe just inept) and then class enters the equation – how can a working class detective accuse a middle class young girl?
Anyway, I don’t won’t to ruin the story for anyone I’ll just say if you like crime fiction, true crime or social history, then you’ll enjoy reading this book.
Here are some other reviews …