K is for Kate Summerscale

This is part of the Alphabet of Crime Fiction series. Big thanks to Kerrie for doing the leg work. You can show your appreciation by heading on over to Mysteries in Paradise and either signing up or cheering everyone on.

K is for Kate Summerscale

Being in the road for a couple of weeks really takes the writing out of you. But, I’m back now and hopefully I can get back to editing and blogging. I’ve Kate Summerscale as my entry for this week’s AoCF but, in reality, this is actually about her book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House.

From the blurb… “It is a summer’s night in 1860. In an elegant Georgian house in the village of Road, the Kent family lies sound asleep. They wake the next morning to a horrific discovery: a gruesome murder has taken place in their home. The household reverberates with shock, not least because the guilty party is almost certainly still among them. Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard, the most celebrated detective of his day, is sent to investigate the murder at Road Hill House. He faces an unenviable task: to solve a case in which the grieving family are suspects.”

I think the most interesting part of this is that it is a true account, and detective Jack Whicher is the first of the real detectives. In fact, Dickens’ Inspector Bucket is based partly on Jack Whicher. I thought the book was a good read. What stands out is that halfway through the book Jack Whicher knows (or suspects) who the murderer is but does not have a smoking gun or concrete evidence to convince his superiors. He is proven right but only years later when the murderer confesses. In the meantime, he (Whicher) has moved on to other cases. I suspect that this uncertainty, and lack of immediate gratification and closure is the reality in most real-life murder mysteries. Doesn’t make for great fiction but is excellent if you want a glimpse into the early days of real detective work.


12 responses »

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Now this is an interesting choice for K! It’s fascinating to look at these older cases and see how they influenced modern crime fiction. And you’re no doubt right about what happens in a lot of real-life mysteries…

  2. Ahh, more historical stuff 😛

  3. Inspector Whicher appears in the entirely fictional historical mystery by John Dickson Carr, Scandal at High Chimneys.
    I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher earlier this year and enjoyed it very much. It has useful photographs, unlike other accounts of this crime that I’d read.

  4. I’m off to try and find this book!

  5. I read this a few years ago and I think it is a most amazing book with all the aspects of a classic murder mystery – the original country house murder. Kate Summerscale’s research was so thorough,including details of the role and status of detective, the origin of the word clue, the comparison of a detective with a “sleuthhound” by Charlotte Bronte and the conduct of newspaper reporters. Wonderful!

    • Margaret, you’re right. It was well researched. And the conduct of the newspaper reporters reminds me that not much has changed in all those years. 🙂

  6. This was also turned into a decent TV movie in the UK – thanks for the review as I’ve only heard good things about this one.

    • I didn’t know about the T. V. movie. Thanks for that. I like British Television but that very well could be because I only get to see the good stuff that makes it across the pond. 🙂


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