The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House: Review.
I finished reading The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House last night, and feel absolutely compelled to recommend it.
I found a copy that was destined for the recycle bin and was captivated by the blurb on the back. Here’s an example:
‘A beautiful piece, written with great lucidity and respect for the reader, and with immaculate restraint. A classic, to my mind, of the finest documentary writing’
John Le Carre
Last year I watched the 3 series of the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes in practically one sitting! These left me intrigued by the whole genre of the detective novel, and here was Kate Summerscale about to tell me about one of England’s first and finest real detectives, Mr. Whicher. How exciting and very interesting!
I couldn’t wait to get started.
I took the book with me on holiday and ended up spending every spare minute of the day reading it. I really couldn’t put it down because it very cleverly made me feel that the next page would help me solve the crime, or at least understand it, and in turn help me sleep easier in my bed! I was engrossed.
This is no ordinary history book, but a dramatic story of a real and very gruesome murder of three-year-old Saville Kent which took place in June 1860, Wiltshire, England. It was a murder that captured the imagination of a whole nation and triggered the genre of the modern detective novel.
Shivers trickled down my spine as the horrific story unfolded and no gruesome detail was spared.
I really didn’t want to sleep with the lights out. Had I remembered to lock the front door – what about the back? Was that a noise I heard in the garden? I’ll just read a little further and perhaps resolve this creepy murder mystery myself – who needs Whicher anyway!!
This is a brilliantly researched book, written in the style of a Victorian thriller. It transported me back in time and drew me into the lives of a seemingly respectable English middle class family, with skeletons in each musty wardrobe.
Unable to fathom who murdered this innocent little boy, they called upon the services of Mr. Whicher, a real life detective, but no gentlemanly Sherlock Holmes! What type of person, in real life, would choose such a career path? He was a working class, strong, intelligent, brave man with an exceptional ability to read people and a fascination with the truth.
The job of detective had been newly created in London and there were only eight in existence at the time. These new fangled detectives were viewed with great suspicion. Unlike the newly formed Metropolitan Police, who wore conspicuous uniforms, had whistles and rattles, and walked the same route at the same time each day, the new detective wore plain clothes, disappeared into shadows and was shrouded in secrecy. They were seen as spies and voyeurs and so they were despised.
The public devoured the Road Hill House murder case and everyone in the country had an opinion, but Mr. Whicher’s findings shocked the whole nation to the core. After all, the middle classes were untouchable and powerful. They were revered and respected, and considered pure and trustworthy.
This murder changed all that, because it hinted that there must be grave goings on in middle class households all over the country. People were shocked, horrified, revolted. An atmosphere of mistrust prevailed – how could one trust a servant ever again, a house keeper, a nanny?
Is it really safe to invite strangers into one’s household, treat them like strangers, treat them badly, pay them badly, look down on them, and then expect to sleep soundly in one’s bed! Or could the murder have been committed by a family member!
If you haven’t read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House yet then you’re in for a treat!
Here’s an article I wrote about the brilliant BBC Sherlock Holmes series.
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