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Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale (Jackie's Review)

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!

Originally reviewed here.


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