Saturday, 11 October 2008

TITLE: THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER AUTHOR: Kate Summerscale DATE PUBLISHED: 2008 DATE READ: October 2008 NOTES: This is a retelling of the Road House murder of 1860. The Kents – an outwardly conventional and respectable middle class family – are horrified to discover that three year old Saville has disappeared from his cot. He is soon found gruesomely murdered and his body dumped in the outside privy. The local police arrive and begin a somewhat haphazard investigation. They decline to ask any questions of the family in the belief that people of their class would be too genteel to be involved in murder. Later Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher arrives from London. He soon suspects one of the Kent daughters but she is released by the court and Whicher generally castigated by all for his error. Kate Summerscale has succeeded in writing a non-fiction book that reads like a modern detective story. Her research is obviously meticulous and she brings to life all the main characters as well as the social history of the time. Her references to Wilkie Collins, Dickens and Henry James all help to place Whicher at the heart of the developing interest in detective fiction. Even those who already know the story of the Road House murder will find this a page-turner. But at the end we are still left with an enigma. Constance Kent – was she mad, bad or abused? We will probably never know the whole truth.

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