The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of A Great Victorian Detective

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"This book is the re-creation of a crime that reverberated far beyond the lanes and fields of the English village where the body of three-year-old Saville Kent was found at the bottom of an outdoor privy, his throat viciously cut. The suspicion that fell upon the grieving family and their servants horrified the public; the thought of what might go on behind the closed doors of respectable middle-class homes - scheming governesses, rebellious children, insanity, jealousy, loneliness, and loathing - aroused both fear and excitement across the country."
"Scotland Yard sent its best man - Detective-Inspector Jonathan Whicher - to investigate the murder at Road Hill. Whicher embodied the idea Victorian detective, a figure who could turn brutal crimes into intellectual puzzles and find order in chaos. But this case tested his powers. Although he was soon sure he had solved the mystery, he failed to find the evidence he needed, and by the time he returned to London he was the object of national scorn. At a time when issues of surveillance and state intrusion were of growing public concern, many found his methods an assault on privacy, a crime of a different kind. When the truth about the murder began to emerge five years later, Whicher had retired from the force. Yet his legacy lives on in fiction. His investigation at Road Hill marked the beginning of our fascination with murder mysteries, and he was an inspiration for the tough, quirky, all-knowing and all-seeing investigator, from the cryptic Sgt.
Cuff in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone to Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade." "With imagination and verve, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher unfolds like a Victorian crime novel, replete with clues that only the most observant will discern - and every detail is true."--Book jacket.
Traces the 1860 murder of a young child whose death launched a national obsession with detection throughout England, nearly destroyed the career of a top Scotland Yard investigator, and inspired the birth of modern detective fiction.
Publisher: New York : Walker & Company ; Vancouver : Raincoast c2008
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
Description: xxiii, 360 p., [8] leaves of plates : ill. (some col.) 22 cm
ISBN: 9780802715357
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 Ken


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
IndyPL_SteveB Aug 17, 2019

Fascinating non-fiction about a famous murder and the beginnings of English detecting. This book is about the first “crime of the century” – the 1860 murder of 3-year-old Francis Saville Kent in a locked house of a respected middle class family in a small English village. When no solution had been found after 2 weeks, Jack Whicher, one of the first Scotland Yard “detectives”, was asked to come in on the case. He thought he had figured out who did the crime; but he couldn’t come up with the key piece of evidence which would have proved it; so he left for London again and endured years of hostility and ridicule.

Along with the story of this crime, Summerscale offers a history of English detective work and how it almost immediately mingled with fictional detective stories in the minds of the public. This particular crime itself was the inspiration for many mystery novels, including *The Moonstone* by Wilkie Collins and *The Mystery of Edwin Drood* by Charles Dickens. An entertaining read for anyone interested in that period in English history – absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the history of English detectives, both real and fictional.

CRRL_MegRaymond Feb 21, 2018

In 1860, a missing three-year-old was found in the bottom of an outdoor privy. Not an accident - the toddler’s throat was cut. Scotland Yard was called in to solve this horrific crime.

May 25, 2016

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: a Shocking Murder and the undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale was a book I liked in every way. I liked the historical murder presented in the form of a murder-mystery. I liked connecting the Road House killing to the novels written at the time. I liked the tracing of the history of all the 'players' to their natural deaths. I just liked the book.

Jan 07, 2016

A great book that gives insight in to the life and times of Victorian England. Also sheds a light on how the police treated violent deaths back in the day.

Jan 16, 2014

Interesting insight into Victorian culture and values through the story of a Victorian country house murder in 1860 and the Scotland Yard Dectective who tried to solve the mystery.

Nov 18, 2013

Kind of dry reading however! it's related to the Railway Murder in 1864 of which Richard (Dick) Tanner the very first 'inspector' whose job was similarly based the fictional Sherlock Holms. Tanner is buried at Winchester West Hill Cemetery. Further interest see PBS Secrets of Scotland Yard 11/2013 Excellent.

KatSu Aug 18, 2012

Oh dear, I was really disappointed in this, it read like a police report, very boring, I kept going only because I wanted to find out what happened, and believe it or not I am really not sure I did.

hgeng63 Aug 04, 2012

Really outstanding--a Victorian true crime that reads like a mystery! This was the "O.J. Simpson" -like case of the day.

loonylovesgood Jul 15, 2012

I found this very fascinating - a really good documentary of a Victorian murder mystery. I couldn't put it down!

alleycat Jun 13, 2012

Outstanding non-fiction read ... Summerscale apparently had trouble reigning herself in while researching this piece. Not just a fascinating true-crime work set in Victorian England, this is also an incredibly interesting take on family ties and sleuth history. I'd also like to add that the book won the prestigious Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction in 2008.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top