Title: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
Author: Kate Summerscale
Page Count: 374
This book is kind of a weird one because while I did enjoy reading it, it was also quite heavy going. It’s a pretty intensive non-fiction book and it jumps between brutal scenes of child murder and little insights into the life of Mr. Whicher, the policeman.
Speaking of which, there was some cool stuff here about Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the police force, a former prime minister and a guy who was originally from my hometown of Tamworth. He’s the reason why an old slang term for cops is “peelers”. Shame he was a conservative.
What’s particularly interesting about this book is the way that Summerscale was able to hold my attention even though she’d occasionally veer away from the actual crime and turn instead to the social mores of the day or the historic state of crime and detection. It’s a little snapshot into history, even though it was published in the 21st century.
I think that parallels have to be drawn here between The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. If anything, I enjoyed this one a little more, probably because I find Victorian England more interesting than middle America in the middle of the 20th century. Capote also arguably went into too much detail, whereas I think Summerscale got it just right.
All of this comes together to make a pretty compelling crime book, and one that definitely exceeded my expectations. True, it’s not always easy going, but it wasn’t to such an extent that I had to read it as one of my bedtime books – that is, a book that I read twenty pages at a time before bed because it was the only way for me to complete it.
I don’t know if I’d recommend this to everyone, though. I think to a general reader, one who isn’t obsessed with true crime, it could be a bit of a chore, and it helps to have at least a passing interest in Victorian England too. Other than that, go ahead and knock yourself out. You’ll have some fun.