The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

I just finished reading The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. I discovered this engaging book at Sandy’s blog, You’ve Gotta Read This, and I am glad I did, since I really enjoyed it!

In the year of 1860, three-year-old Saville Kent was found brutally murdered in the outdoor privy of his family’s country estate. Scotland Yard Detective-Inspector Jonathan Jack Whicher was called in to lead the investigation. He was one of England’s first detectives and Scotland Yard’s best man, thus everyone hoped he could solve the mystery behind the Road Hill murder. As soon as he began the investigation, Whicher was convinced that someone within the family must be responsible for the crime. However, the public was shocked by his assumption; the idea that such things would happen in respectable middle-class homes terrified everyone.

Nevertheless, people were fascinated by the Road Hill case; it aroused both fear and excitement across England and everyone seemed to know who the murderer was. Everyone had a theory and a suspect; some believed that the father and the nursemaid had committed the crime, while others believed that one of the siblings must be the murderer. There were also people who believed that the murderer could not be a family member.

Whicher became convinced that Constance Kent, Saville’s half-sister, was the murderer. He believed that she was jealous of her little half-brother because he was everybody’s favorite, so she decided to murder him. However, Whicher had little evidence and Constance did not confess, so the case went cold.  The Road Hill case nearly destroyed his career and Whicher retired a few years later. In his later years, he worked as a private detective; eventually, he was vindicated and he appeared in another sensational case.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is an engaging non-fiction book as it deals with a fascinating and true murder case. The book is full of hidden motives, false accusations and dark family secrets and the reader will be eager to find out the truth behind the murder at Road Hill House. In addition, the reader will learn about the history and the origins of detective fiction (you’ll find out that Mr. Whicher inspired characters in fiction such as Sgt. Cuff in Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone).

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is an absorbing, well-researched book full of historical details and it draws a fascinating portrait of Victorian families and their exciting lives. I recommend this book to everyone who loves detective stories and to everyone who wants to find out more about the history of detective fiction!

I would like to thank Michelle Blankenship from Bloomsbury – Walker & Co. for sending me a copy of this thrilling book!