I finally got around to reading ‘The Suspicions of Mr.Whicher’ by Kate Summerscale. Now, was it as exciting as I’d thought it would be? Short answer, no. I originally thought this was going to be more about the actual murder but in truth, that took up only half of the book(spread out ofcourse, not as in the first half of the book). This is what’s written on the book jacket:
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, alternatively called ‘The Murder at Road Hill House’ is half story telling, half history account. The author seamlessly blends the various aspects of the story with life and politics in the Victorian Age. I was amazed time and time again at how detailed and lifelike she portrayed the events. It was as if she actually time-travelled to the mid-18th century era and witnessed it first-hand! It must have taken her much organizational skills and painstaking research to compile everything in a neat book for the world to read. I must give her that.
The murder itself is at once atrocious and expertly done. It shocks you to know that humans are capable of such sickening acts. That an innocent toddler was brutally murdered for selfish reasons. The Road Hill House case wasn’t just a gruesome killing, if what the book says is true, then this was the case that not just affected the victim’s family but also caused ripples across the country. It questioned the Englishman’s right for household privacy and what lay behind the tightly drawn curtains, the efficiency of the court rulings and the very nature of human beings. It took the bizarre murder of a 3 year-old to wake up a whole nation and beyond.
I found that the solving of the mystery was not satisfying. But I understand that this is not the author’s or anyone’s fault. After all, it’s a true story, the plot wasn’t planned out. I was also extremely annoyed and angry that Constance did not get a life sentence. Maybe she changed, maybe she regretted doing it. But a life is a life. How are we to value one more than another? I’m also leaning towards the author’s speculation that William might have had a hand in the murder. It’s quite likely that William was a driving factor in Constance’s motives to kill Saville.
—END OF SPOILERS—
Now, I bought the book with the promise that it was going to be like an Agatha Christie novel, where a seemingly complex murder would be solved nice and neatly in the end. But I didn’t know that this was going to be a historical non-fiction, so you’re going to get a whole lotta history thrown in there as well. Sometimes to the point of getting boring. I do like reading history but that was not why I bought this book for. The book blurb promised a good, thrilling mystery(looks like the thirst for mysteries and murders still goes on even now, eh?) and it only half delivered that. It’s a good thing I got it at a discount! I wouldn’t have if it didn’t cost around US$5.
Should I Get This Book?
Get it if you’re looking for a historical, real-life mystery. And if you’d like to know how detective work began and was like in the 18th century.
Don’t get it if you’re only looking for a good mystery with a neat, surprising and satisfying ending.
You can get the book here:
P.S. It looks like there is a 2011 movie on the book. Not sure if I’ll watch it though. Also, the comments section contains spoilers. Just a heads up ;).