The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) Kate Summerscale

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  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Format: Paperback | 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 32mm | 299g
  • Publication date: 5 January 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0747596484
  • ISBN 13: 9780747596486
  • Illustrations note: Illustrations (some col.), maps, ports.
  • Sales rank: 9,219

Product description

It is a summer's night in 1860. In an elegant detached Georgian house in the village of Road, Wiltshire, all is quiet. Behind shuttered windows the Kent family lies sound asleep. At some point after midnight a dog barks. The family wakes the next morning to a horrific discovery: an unimaginably gruesome murder has taken place in their home. The household reverberates with shock, not least because the guilty party is surely still among them. Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard, the most celebrated detective of his day, reaches Road Hill House a fortnight later. He faces an unenviable task: to solve a case in which the grieving family are the suspects. The murder provokes national hysteria. The thought of what might be festering behind the closed doors of respectable middle-class homes - scheming servants, rebellious children, insanity, jealousy, loneliness and loathing - arouses fear and a kind of excitement. But when Whicher reaches his shocking conclusion there is uproar and bewilderment. A true story that inspired a generation of writers such as Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, this has all the hallmarks of the classic murder mystery - a body; a detective; a country house steeped in secrets. In The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Kate Summerscale untangles the facts behind this notorious case, bringing it back to vivid, extraordinary life.

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Author information

Kate Summerscale was born in 1965. She 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. She lives in London with her five-year-old son.

Customer reviews

By bobdel 06 Jul 2011 5

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a mixture of a who-dunnit novel and a history lesson in early forensics and investigative procedures. I will also be looking to now read Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allen Poe, etc as a result of her references.

By Peter Jones 03 Aug 2010 4

Both the reviews above certainly do justice to the book. Yes the book is a bit of a flog simply due to the mammoth detail uncovered by the author. I disagree with the view (review 2) some could have been omitted.

For a serious fan of Victorian Crime the book really is a must have. In this day & age DNA would have solved the case without doubt.
Not knowing anything of the case prior I admit to being stunned by the last segments and this added to the overall enjoyment.
Not a book to be read through "non stop" as the other reviewers correctly state. The amount of data is best taken in bite sized lumps. My reading took over 3 weeks but the end result was well worth the tolerance of the slightly stodgy style.

I am certailnly pleased to have this in my collection.

Peter Jones Melbourne August 2010

By R.D-Diaz 12 Jul 2010 3

It's a case of whodunit? I could understand why this book had
received so much praise and recognition most probably for the amount of research that the author had put into the making of this book.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is a meticulously researched investigation into a notorious murder case. Although it happened by some 150 years ago I can't help but compare the reaction from the media of the time and at present which would accompany a similar crime today.

Tabloid hysteria is not a modern day phenomenon. I'm nonplussed by how the suspect could get away with such gruesome crime after killing her step brother by just serving a lengthy jail term and later went on to lead a productive life on her release, including working with leprosy sufferers. An example of someone turning over a new leaf? Or as the book hints - an example of someone taking more than her fair share of the blame in order to protect a loved one?

There are many fascinating things about the case, and the book is gripping from the start, although it gets a bit bogged down in detail at times. It took me awhile to finish this book for just when things start to get exciting the author tend to sway from the case and squeeze in factual details or issues that were remotely not related to the case, somehow you'll be tempted to dart through some paragraphs or pages due to this.

Thought provoking, recommend to patient readers but not a book I'm interested in keeping or reading it again.

By Penny Cunningham 19 Jun 2010 5

This was a very interesting book in that it was a true story. It started well enough telling you the bare bones of the plot which I must say was very good, but there was a lot in the book the really did not need to be there! Ms Summerscale has obviously done a lot of research into the case. However she included information that only touched breifly on the story being told. The story was about a murder that had taken place in Road Hill House on the 29th June 1860, The murder could only have been carried out by someone INSIDE the house that night! You were told about all the clues and the story is about detective Whicher a prominent "thief-taker" of the victorian times, who was assigned the case. It gave all the clues and a lot of comments from well read newspapers of the time. It was quite an enjoyable read but would have benefited from a little less irrelevant information.

Review quote

'It is a beautiful piece, written with great lucidity and respect for the reader, and with immaculate restraint. A classic, to my mind, of the finest documentary writing.' John Le Carre 'A pacy analysis of a true British murder case from 1860, the unravelling of which involved one of the earliest Scotland Yard detectives and inspired sensation novelists such as Dickens and Wilkie Collins Absolutely riveting' Sarah Waters, Guardian 'Summerscale has constructed nothing less than a masterpiece My shelves are stacked with books about crime, but none more satisfying than this' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday 'Sparse, melancholy, beautifully written the year's most beguiling biography' Independent