Monday, January 22, 2018

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

It took me two tries to finish this book. I think that the first time I tried to pick it up (one or two years ago), I wasn’t quite in the mood for it because I gave up after a chapter. But this time, after having read The Wicked Boy and gotten used to the author's style, the book grabbed me and I enjoyed it very much.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is about the murder of Saville Kent and the detective, Jack Whicher. At a time where the Englishman’s home was considered inviolable territory, Jack Whicher (a working-class man, compared to the middle-class victims) had the nerve to ask the uncomfortable questions and show the ugly side of the family to the public.

Unfortunately for him, while he had fingered the right person for the crime, she was not prosecuted and he ended up in disgrace. At least he was vindicated when a confession was made and he managed to get back his career and confidence.

If you’re looking for a book that focuses solely on the crime or the detective, you are in the wrong place. While there is a lot of information on the family, the investigation, and even the career of Jack Whicher, the book also spends a lot of time discussing the influence of the case, on both the public and writers such as Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. This case has inspired The Secret of Lady Audley, The Moonstone, and the unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, among others. There is also plenty of discussion about how the detective came about, which I found to be very interesting.

I suppose the thing to note about the book is its style. It’s very factual and dispassionate, and I didn’t even sense the author’s opinions until the end. If you’re used to more personal true crime books, such as The Stranger Beside Me, you may find this a little dry.

Overall, I found this to be a very fascinating book. It goes beyond the murder mystery and explores the mood and thinking of the times. If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and detective novels, you’ll probably want to read this to find out more about how the detective came about and how this case and it’s detective influenced the early writers of the mystery genre.


  1. I have a copy of this one, but haven't read it. The dispassionate telling of the story does have me a little leery, but it does sound fascinating. I hope I will enjoy it when I get to it.

    1. The style definitely takes some time to get used to it. Hope you enjoy the book!


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