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

by Kate Summerscale.

The tale of a notorious Victorian child-murder. (Not to be confused with fiction!)

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

When this book first came out, it was on prominent display in bookshops for several months. I liked the title and the cover, but I refused to pick it up because it was fiction—and I don't really do fiction.

I forgot that you should never judge a book by its cover.

Many months later, during one of our lunchtime phone calls, Stense happened to mention that had read the book and, despite appearances, it wasn't fiction at all; it was an account of an notorious Victorian child-murder. She said she'd buy the book for me for Christmas, which she did, and very good it is too.

Summerscale is excellent at describing the media frenzy surrounding the Road Hill House murder case. The star of the book is the eponymous police detective, Mr Whicher, who seems to have been the inspiration for numerous fictional detectives. Summerscale makes frequent references to popular detective novels of the era, drawing our attention to similarities between the real-life and fictional cases.

In the end, as seems only right, we do indeed find out whodunnit.

Some of the negative Amazon reviews for this book are quite amusing. It seems that I was not the only person labouring under the misapprehension that this book was a work of fiction. Indeed, some of the reviewers, having read the book, still do not seem to have realised!

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