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The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of A Great Victorian Detective

Book - 2008
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The dramatic story of the real-life murder that inspired the birth of modern detective fiction.

In June of 1860 three-year-old Saville Kent was found at the bottom of an outdoor privy with his throat slit. The crime horrified all England and led to a national obsession with detection, ironically destroying, in the process, the career of perhaps the greatest detective in the land.

At the time, the detective was a relatively new invention; there were only eight detectives in all of England and rarely were they called out of London, but this crime was so shocking, as Kate Summerscale relates in her scintillating new book, that Scotland Yard sent its best man to investigate, Inspector Jonathan Whicher.

Whicher quickly believed the unbelievable--that someone within the family was responsible for the murder of young Saville Kent. Without sufficient evidence or a confession, though, his case was circumstantial and he returned to London a broken man. Though he would be vindicated five years later, the real legacy of Jonathan Whicher lives on in fiction: the tough, quirky, knowing, and all-seeing detective that we know and love today...from the cryptic Sgt. Cuff in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone to Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is a provocative work of nonfiction that reads like a Victorian thriller, and in it Kate Summerscale has fashioned a brilliant, multilayered narrative that is as cleverly constructed as it is beautifully written.

Publisher: New York : Walker & Company : Distributed to the trade by Macmillan, 2008.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9780802715357
Characteristics: xxiii, 360 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 22 cm.


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IndyPL_SteveB Aug 17, 2019

Fascinating non-fiction about a famous murder and the beginnings of English detecting. This book is about the first “crime of the century” – the 1860 murder of 3-year-old Francis Saville Kent in a locked house of a respected middle class family in a small English village. When no solution had been found after 2 weeks, Jack Whicher, one of the first Scotland Yard “detectives”, was asked to come in on the case. He thought he had figured out who did the crime; but he couldn’t come up with the key piece of evidence which would have proved it; so he left for London again and endured years of hostility and ridicule.

Along with the story of this crime, Summerscale offers a history of English detective work and how it almost immediately mingled with fictional detective stories in the minds of the public. This particular crime itself was the inspiration for many mystery novels, including *The Moonstone* by Wilkie Collins and *The Mystery of Edwin Drood* by Charles Dickens. An entertaining read for anyone interested in that period in English history – absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the history of English detectives, both real and fictional.

CRRL_MegRaymond Feb 21, 2018

In 1860, a missing three-year-old was found in the bottom of an outdoor privy. Not an accident - the toddler’s throat was cut. Scotland Yard was called in to solve this horrific crime.

May 25, 2016

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: a Shocking Murder and the undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale was a book I liked in every way. I liked the historical murder presented in the form of a murder-mystery. I liked connecting the Road House killing to the novels written at the time. I liked the tracing of the history of all the 'players' to their natural deaths. I just liked the book.

Jan 07, 2016

A great book that gives insight in to the life and times of Victorian England. Also sheds a light on how the police treated violent deaths back in the day.

Jan 16, 2014

Interesting insight into Victorian culture and values through the story of a Victorian country house murder in 1860 and the Scotland Yard Dectective who tried to solve the mystery.

Nov 18, 2013

Kind of dry reading however! it's related to the Railway Murder in 1864 of which Richard (Dick) Tanner the very first 'inspector' whose job was similarly based the fictional Sherlock Holms. Tanner is buried at Winchester West Hill Cemetery. Further interest see PBS Secrets of Scotland Yard 11/2013 Excellent.

KatSu Aug 18, 2012

Oh dear, I was really disappointed in this, it read like a police report, very boring, I kept going only because I wanted to find out what happened, and believe it or not I am really not sure I did.

hgeng63 Aug 04, 2012

Really outstanding--a Victorian true crime that reads like a mystery! This was the "O.J. Simpson" -like case of the day.

loonylovesgood Jul 15, 2012

I found this very fascinating - a really good documentary of a Victorian murder mystery. I couldn't put it down!

alleycat Jun 13, 2012

Outstanding non-fiction read ... Summerscale apparently had trouble reining herself in while researching this piece. Not just a fascinating true-crime work set in Victorian England, this is also an incredibly interesting take on family ties and sleuth history. I'd also like to add that the book won the prestigious Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction in 2008.

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