We are delighted to welcome Kate Summerscale to Abingdon as part of the Abingdon Arts Festival, as she is one of the rising stars on the UK literary scene. The book tells the dramatic real-life story of a notorious unsolved murder of a three-year old boy in Victorian England - a case that, before now, few people will have heard of, but actually sowed the seeds of the classic country house murder mystery. Many of the very first victorian detectives were based on the character of Mr Whicher after the case where the murder of the son of an apparently respectable factory inspector at the family's Georgian country house shocked the nation. With jealous half-siblings, a dead mother who had gone mad, a cruel governess turned stepmother and a staff of gardeners, stable-hands and servants in the mix, the crime scandalised Victorian society. At a time when there was an explosion of local and regional newspapers, the crime fuelled a craving for salacious details which echoes more recent unsolved crimes which have grabbed tabloid headlines. Theories about the killing were thrashed out at dinner parties and the murder fuelled the 1860s phenomenon of the "sensation" novel, inspiring Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone among others. Detective Inspector Jack Whicher, one of the original eight Scotland Yard detectives, was put in charge and concluded that the murder was an inside job. Whicher was 45, shabby and grizzled and the country went wild for him, although ultimately the case left him a broken man. Kate Summerscale's book has again thrust the little-known figure of Mr Whicher centre stage. The book is storming up the bestseller charts as it appeals both to fans of history, biography and crime fiction, written in the style of a classic murder mystery. Once again the nation is trying to solve the mystery of who killed Samuel Kent. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House was one of the literary sensations of 2008. It won the Radio 4 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction - the 'booker prize' for non-fiction. It has also been a huge bestseller. Tickets are £6 per person (£4 for Mostly Booklovers members) and the event takes place in the Roysse Room, Guildhall, Abingdon at 3pm on Saturday April 4th. (gaskella)
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