Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. Kate Summerscale. 2008. Walker. 360 pages.

On Sunday, 15 July 1860, Detective-Inspector Jonathan Whicher of Scotland Yard paid two shillings for a hansom cab to take him from Millbank, just west of Westminster, to Paddington station, the London terminus of the Great Western Railway. 

 The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is such a compelling book! How many (adult) nonfiction books have you read that you can honestly say you've read in one sitting? How many have you read that are nearly impossible to put down? I've read plenty that are good--great even; I've read plenty that I've found fascinating and enjoyable, such as Becoming Queen Victoria. But this one is just as captivating and suspenseful as a mystery or detective story.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is a TRUE must read, if you enjoy detective or mystery fiction. If you find sensation novels thrilling, then, this one will prove a real treat. The author even spends a great deal of time discussing how real life court cases, real life crimes were influencing the fiction of popular authors, authors like Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, etc. The author discusses the characters and plots of these novels even quoting from them at times.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is a nonfiction chronicle of a horrible murder. The murder occurs at Road Hill, in the Kent home, in June 1860. Within weeks, one of England's best detectives, Mr. Whicher, is on the case. He has opinions as to who did it. He has a definite suspect in mind; unfortunately, in the week after the arrest, he is not able to find enough evidence to make a case to bring the suspect to trial, and the person is released. (I'm trying SO hard not to spoil this one by using pronouns or names!!) It's a big disappointment to Whicher who feels that he did name the right person, but, Whicher loses some of his reputation at least because public opinion has gone against him and his suspect. In fact, the case has received so much attention that there are hundreds of letters coming in from people who feel they know who really did it based on piecing together clues from the newspaper.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is about:
  • Mr. Jonathan Whicher before, during, and after this case or investigation
  • The Kent family before, during, and after this murder, trial, and investigation
  • The detective-police system/procedure in Britain at this time
  • A handful of other "big" cases during the 1860s 
I definitely loved this one!!! I'd easily recommend it to people who love Jane Eyre, The Moonstone, Woman in White, Bleak House, etc.

Read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
  • If you love fascinating, captivating, compelling nonfiction; nonfiction that reads like a novel but is well-researched.
  • If you have an interest in the Victorian period
  • If you are interested in sensation, mystery, or detective stories

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tasha B. 12:22 PM  

I've only read one non-fiction book that was impossible to put down, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money. Most of the time I skim through non-fiction, but that book was so compelling. This one looks like something I would definitely be interested in--will have to see if my library has it. :)

CharmedLassie 2:52 PM  

Ah, I read this in one sitting! Actually, sat on the floor because in front of the fire was the only warm place to be and I stayed there for hours in a very uncomfortable position to get to the end of this. Wonderful book on every level.

Anonymous,  10:17 PM  

This sounds like my kind of book! I will definitely pick this one up. Thank you for your review.

Cheryl Klarich 1:18 PM  

Your review really made want to read this one!!
Sounds like a winner. :)

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

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  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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