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The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House Paperback – 5 Jan 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (5 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747596484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747596486
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (374 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Summerscale is the author of the bestselling The Queen of Whale Cay, which won a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread biography award. She has also judged various literary competitions including the Booker Prize. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House, published in April 2008, was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction 2008, the 2009 Galaxy Book of the Year and is a Number One International Bestseller. Kate Summerscale lives in London.

Product Description

Review

'I can't think of another book which takes you so fast into the smells, tastes and atmosphere of that time.' -- Doris Lessing

Book Description

The fascinating story of a famous Victorian murder case - and the notorious detective who solved it --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

362 of 388 people found the following review helpful By Icy Sedgwick on 11 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is as much a history of Victorian social values and the emerging field of detective fiction in the nineteenth century as it is a book about a hideous country house murder in 1860. Researched using original police papers from the National Archives, books on the crime and many more sources, the book tells the story of the Road Hill House murder of 1860, when a three year old boy was brutally slain by another occupant of his home. The book sets out to detail the case, from the original event to the investigation by Scotland Yard detective Jack Whicher, to the aftermath suffered by the entire family.

It's extremely well written and well researched, and even though there is little to add suspense considering anyone with an Internet connection can discover the identity of the murderer, Summerscale still manages to inject a certain air of tension into proceedings, drawing things out as they must have unfolded at the time. With a peculiar ability to grab your attention and hold it firmly, the book is difficult to put down, and a thoroughly fascinating read for anyone with an interest in detective fiction, real life crime or a historical period that throws up as many questions as it answers.

Highly recommended.
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141 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Durston TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 May 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The murder of a young child which took place at Road Hill House, Wiltshire in 1860 captured the imagination of the public and turned everyone into amateur detectives. The perfect example of a country house murder with a finite amount of suspects also inspired writers of the time such as Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

'The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher' is structured so that first, we learn the details of the crime, then we learn about the investigation which leads on to what happened next and the author's own theory based on the evidence. To say this book is well-researched in something of an understatement; if someone goes through a toll road, we know how much they pay; if someone moves to London we find out who they lived next door to; if someone left a will, we find out exactly what they left and to whom. I'm sure this level of detail would be irritating to some, but I found it absolutely incredible!

The book is also interesting in giving us a taste of the time, the attitudes of the people, the ways in which the Police force was growing and how events were shaping literature.

This is an extraordinary achievement and engrossing throughout. I can't wait to see what she will come up with next!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hagrid's Umbrella VINE VOICE on 17 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
The book covers the true, rather nasty and sad events of a 1850/60 murder in a English country house and provides a chronological revealing of the facts as they are discovered. There's a lot of information available on this case to give details of events from newspaper clippings, police reports and other sources. It also puts it into context of the time with other such crimes.

It's ghoulishly interesting to find out what happened and the ending is particularly interesting. Perhaps my own presumptions made me a bit disappointed overall as the title suggested to me an almost Poirot esqu solving of the case. This is added weight to by the initial, constant and rather annoying reference to detective fiction of the time * and how it was influence by this event and the detective. That and how popular the book was made me expect a bit more.

It is a fascinating case and the history of the parties involved is particularly interesting especially the later parts of the book but if you're expecting a Poriot or a Sherlock Holmes reveal leave this till you're lower on reading material.

* Be warned as the fiction referenced in this book often has its mysteries revealed without thought. If I remember correctly, the murderer in Bleak House is state with no warning. Other fiction is referenced and could have been spoiled too but I learnt to skip the bits discussing other stories. Moonstone, The Women in White, Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Alan Poe are referenced. This was doubly annoying as I read this so I could watch a BBC 4 Program that was reckless giving spoilers on fiction/fact I'd not read; including this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neil Lennon on 18 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Suspicions of Mr Whicher" details an investigation into a child murder which took place in 1860 at Road Hill House in Wiltshire. As the author Kate Summerscale makes clear from the start this was the first highly publicised 'who dunnit' style murder mystery to fascinate the press and the British public. This true life case became the original inspiration for every fictional detective novel written since.

Where this book is strongest is describing the details of the murder itself, the people involved and the investigation carried out by the detective Jack Whicher. It is an interesting case in itself, being a classic locked door mystery where you know that at least one member of the household committed the crime.

The background detail on the foundation of the Metropolitan Police detective service is fascinating. I especially liked the conflict of Victorian morality that objected to police officers being dressed in plain clothes and poking their noses into the affairs of respectable folk.

However, the actual substance of the murder and investigation only accounts for perhaps half of this book. The other half seemed to me to be no better than padding. False leads, eccentric amateur detectives and unnecessary background about those involved makes the narrative drag in places. The last few chapters of the book are especially tiresome as it describes the lives of the surviving family members far beyond any relevance to the murder case.

Although Kate Summerscale has obviously painstakingly reseached Victorian detective literature and does a good job of referring to this throughout, I would have preferred to have seen more detail about how the case had such an impact on the birth of sensationalist journalism.
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