HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective (2008)

by Kate Summerscale

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5051723,725 (3.44)341
Biography & Autobiography. History. True Crime. Nonfiction. 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 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 Sergeant 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 author Kate Summerscale has fashioned a brilliant, multilayered narrative that is as cleverly constructed as it is beautifully written.… (more)
  1. 80
    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Victorian crime
  2. 70
    Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Lady Audley's Secret (1862) mirrors the themes of the real-life Constance Kent case (1860).
  3. 30
    The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Both books are examples of Victorian social history at its best.
  4. 20
    The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  5. 20
    The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower (mysterymax)
    mysterymax: Again, an example of a true crime having a profound influence on the mystery genre.
  6. 10
    The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard (hairball)
  7. 10
    Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes by Mary S. Hartman (susanbooks)
  8. 10
    Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (alalba)
    alalba: There are some similarities in the stories, that include the murder investigarion and trial.
  9. 00
    The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw (hairball)
  10. 00
    Crippen: A Novel of Murder by John Boyne (sanddancer)
  11. 11
    The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Devil In the White City and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher are compelling and richly detailed books about historical true crime. These stories present not only details about the crime but also about the social mores of the time.
  12. 00
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (libelulla1)
    libelulla1: Both are true crime told in narrative format and the crime in each is never fully explained, only speculated about.
  13. 00
    Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder that Shocked Victorian England by Paul Thomas Murphy (schmootc)
  14. 00
    Bleak House by Charles Dickens (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Dickens' Inspector Bucket may have been based on Jonathan "Jack" Whicher.
  15. 00
    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (Charon07)
    Charon07: The Moonstone was influenced by this murder investigation.
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 341 mentions

English (161)  Italian (3)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (171)
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
The publisher’s description sums this book up neatly and accurately, but it doesn’t convey what a compelling story it tells. It’s a fascinating and gruesome murder mystery/detective story, with well-drawn characters and a focus on the relevant details, but all soundly documented by primary sources, including police and court documents, correspondence of the people involved, newspaper articles, and similar historic documents. It also looks at the popular reaction to the case and the great influence it had on the creation and rise in popularity of detective fiction. Everything is tied up neatly by the end, but it ends up being a rather melancholy tale when all is said and done.

Summerscale does a wonderful job of presenting interesting and relevant details without bogging down the history with a lot of boring facts. I typically hate reading history, so maybe this style of telling would disappoint historians, but I found it very engaging, like reading fiction. The notes (aside from a few explanatory notes at the ends of chapters) are endnotes, so I could flip to the back if I wanted to see her sources, or ignore them until a convenient lull in the story. So I guess I can tolerate history after all: just give me a lurid story told like fiction, with historic details inconspicuously tucked away out of sight. ( )
  Charon07 | Apr 22, 2024 |
I suspect that this is probably a very interesting read and it would likely be fun to follow along with the revelation of clues and Victorian-era detective's investigation of this true crime. However, this book is only available from my library on audio, and I'm finding it a real snoozer. I'm not sure if this is due to Simon Vance's performance, which isn't bad, or if the narrative style is just a bad fit for the audio format.

Either way, I'm not finding it compelling enough to knock any other books off my To Buy TBR list, so I'll just abandon the book at this point. I'm not assigning a star rating, since I think my dissatisfaction has more to do with the format than the quality of the writing or audio performance.

DNF at 14%. Borrowed from my public library via Overdrive.
  Doodlebug34 | Jan 1, 2024 |
Having enjoyed the TV drama based upon this book - broadcast some years ago - and been reminded of it in a recent read of Lucy Worsley's history of the British preoccupation with both real crime and detective fiction, it seemed a good time to take this book off the shelf.

This was a fascinating account not only of Mr Wicher's investigation, but of the social and class attitudes of the time that hampered the investigation. Due to a combination of bungling by the local police force, the late date at which he was assigned to the case, and the murderer's cool headedness, Wicher was unable to secure a conviction although subsequent events vindicated his identification of the murderer.

The follow up information on what became of the perpetrator and other family members was also interesting. And the section on Wicher's early career as a "bobby" in Holborn was fascinating, given that family history research of mine has already revealed an ancestor in the same division around the same time, so I will be following that up.

An altogether enjoyable and informative read, so a richly deserved five stars. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
This started out really strong, but about halfway through I really just wanted to know the outcome. I skimmed the second half. My favorite thing about the book is the connections between this case (and others of its time) and the development of the detective novel. ( )
  nogomu | Oct 19, 2023 |
The story of a child murder (almost a locked room mystery) is always interesting, but never scintillating, and it is quite padded with unnecessary details. The title is also a little bit overdone, since Whicher wasn't quite undone, as the story shows. The author also, while quoting lots of insights and guesses from various folks of the time period, doesn't show a great deal of insight herself, until we get to the end of the book, where the "alternate" explanation presented is pretty convincing. There is a lot of good stuff here, however, about English life in the 1860s, and it was a worthwhile read. The author's weaving of the true story with the detective literature of that time--some of which was inspired by this case--is also pretty interesting. ( )
  datrappert | Oct 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
The case has been discussed many times, and Summerscale turns the spotlight on the detective. This would be interesting if she knew more about him, but the material is so threadbare that Whicher cannot buy a railway ticket without our being given a description of Paddington Station. Yet she omits crucial information about the ill-treatment of Constance's brother.
 
Painstaking but never boring recreation of a sensational 1860 murder brings to shivering life the age of the Victorian detective. The Road Hill case served as fodder for the emerging detective genre taken up with relish by such authors as Dickens, Poe and Wilkie Collins. It perplexed detectives at the time and was resolved five years after the deed—and then only partially and unsatisfactorily, avers British journalist and biographer Summerscale.... Summerscale pursues the story over decades, enriching the account with explanations of the then-new detective terminology and methods and suggesting a convincing motive for Constance’s out-of-the-blue confession. A bang-up sleuthing adventure.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Feb 1, 2008)
 
More important, Summerscale accomplishes what modern genre authors hardly bother to do anymore, which is to use a murder investigation as a portal to a wider world. When put in historical context, every aspect of this case tells us something about mid-Victorian society,
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kate Summerscaleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, SteveCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clays LimitedPrintersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mann, DavidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Do you feel an uncomfortable heat at the pit of your stomach, sir? and a nasty thumping at the top of your head? Ah! not yet? It will lay hold of you...I call it the detective-fever.
From The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins
Dedication
To my sister, Juliet
First words
This is the story of a murder committed in an English country house in 1860, perhaps the most disturbing murder of its time.
Quotations
Perhaps this is the purpose of detective investigations, real and fictional -- to transform sensation, horror and grief into a puzzle, and then solve the puzzle, to make it go away. 'The detective story,' observed Raymond Chandler in 1949, 'is a tragedy with a happy ending.'
The word 'detect' stemmed from the Latin 'de-tegere' or 'unroof', and the original figure of the detective was the lame devil Asmodeus, 'the prince of demons', who took the roofs off houses to spy on the lives inside.
By failing to catch one killer, a detective might unleash a host of them.
A storybook detective starts by confronting us with a murder and ends by absolving us of it. He clears us of guilt. He relieves us of uncertainty. He removes us from the presence of death.
A plot was a knot, and a story ended in a 'denouement', an unknotting.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
Biography & Autobiography. History. True Crime. Nonfiction. 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 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 Sergeant 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 author Kate Summerscale has fashioned a brilliant, multilayered narrative that is as cleverly constructed as it is beautifully written.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Recounts the events surrounding the 1830 murder of three-year-old Saville Kent and explores the police investigation into the crime, which led to family members becoming prime suspects, while local residents began to doubt the efficiency of the lead investigator as the crime went unsolved for years.

Contents:

To see what we have got to see -- The horror and amazement -- Shall not God search this out? -- A man of mystery -- Every clue seems cut off -- Something in her dark cheek -- Shape-shifters -- All tight shut up -- I know you -- To look at a star by glances -- What games goes on -- Detective-fever -- A general putting of this and that together by the wrong end -- Women! Hold your tongues! -- Like a crave -- Better she be mad -- My love turned -- Surely our real detective liveth -- Fairy-lands of fact -- The music of the scythe on the lawn outside.
Haiku summary
Le détective cherche
et soupçonne Constance d'avoir
tué son jeune frère
(Tiercelin)

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.44)
0.5 2
1 27
1.5 7
2 95
2.5 23
3 258
3.5 113
4 285
4.5 38
5 98

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 208,358,299 books! | Top bar: Always visible