The Suspicions of Mr Whicher:Kate Summerscale

These book reviews are my own personal opinions, I am not a professional reviewer.  I read a great deal and belong to various online reading challenges and two book groups down in the real world. I just have loved reading since I was a tot, way back in the late 40s and can never get enough of books:)

re-readsThe Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

This is a book about a real crime that shocked Britain in 1860. The murder of a well bred child in his own home. A home which had been locked securely that night. So, obviously the act of insider, one of the occupants.


‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’, suddenly become an insecurity.

I had been recommended this book, read very good reviews of it previously and had had it on my to be read pile since way back.  So when it came up as a book club read I was delighted. . . I have to confess now that I was disappointed in the book. I first read it last year and now it has come up on another book club read. I am no more enamored this time I’m afraid:(

 It was excellent on atmosphere and recording the social niceties of the times when the middle-class was on a successful rise. When they also employed many servants and the family home was sacrosanct. The story told well the class differences between those who employed and those who were employed, it also showed very well the deference usually paid to the middle and upper classes.

 Mr Whicher, the detective called in from London when the local police failed to make any progress in the case, was one of a new breed of policeman. Detective work was in its infancy and detectives were on the whole recruited from the very class and the environment which committed most of the crimes: the working class. He was not welcomed to the family in the big house, as he worked on the principle that everyone could be guilty, regardless of status, so everyone in the house was a potential suspect, unless proved innocent, and that included the family.

 Because there is a varied and large cast of characters, which is to be expected in a household of that size, we never really get to understand any of them and that lack of understanding created a barrier between the story and myself.

His detection led him to suspect that one of the daughters was the guilty person and he duly arrested her and took her to trial. This was not a popular move, she was very young, 16, a gently nurtured daughter of a well-to-do local employer. The father was himself a local working boy made good.

Mr Whicher was doomed to failure, made to look useless and when the trial collapsed due to lack of evidence he was forced to retire in ignominy.

 I personally found the reporter style of writing repetitive and too bogged down with detail. Whereas I enjoyed the detail about class and crime, human nature and religion of the time, constant details of timing and the whereabouts of people was, for me, tedious. Those who thrive on details will find it riveting. I firmly believe that for those who enjoy real crime, timetables, and minute detail will enjoy this book. It is well written and the story is tangled enough to be interesting. The fault this time lies with the reader:(

 The daughter confessed about a year later to having committed the crime and was saved from the gallows by Queen Victoria, being sent to prison for 20 years and then appearing to vanish. Maybe then the next bit, for me, was the most interesting because as with all good mysteries that wasn’t the end of the story.

 Mr Whicher ticks boxes for TBR pile challenge, recomendations, re-reads, book groups, Goodread Challenge and non fiction.

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