Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (a review)

3.5 out of 5: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is one-third a true crime book about a famous murder in the English countryside in 1860, one-third a history of the English detective profession in general, one-third a biography of Jonathan Whicher, one of the first English detectives, and one-third a literary history of the English detective novel. If you’re good at math, undoubtedly you have calculated that Mr. Whicher includes more subjects than can fit comfortably in a single book. Some readers will find this quirky mix of elements to be confused or unfocused. I found it charming and entertaining. I am fascinated with the development of the English novel as a form of literature in the 1700s and 1800s, including the early detective novels by authors like Wilkie Collins. Although not necessary, having some background and interest in literary history makes Mr. Whicher a more absorbing read. The studious tone adopted by Summerscale may be a bit dry for some, but I found the tone to be a perfectly appropriate accompaniment to the subject matter(s) of the book. All in all, a varied, informative, and entertaining read.


Anonymous said...

That one's medium-high on my TBR list -- did you read her first, The Queen of Whale Cay? The subject alone makes the book worth reading. "Joe" Carstairs was a 20th century Englishwoman who was also an heiress to some serious Standard Oil money, was a very successful motorboat racer, a very out of the closet lesbian, then retreated to her own island in the Bahamas with her weird doll. And there's photos!)

Gwen Dawson said...

No, I haven't read The Queen of Whale Cay, but it sure sounds interesting. Thanks for recommending it.


S. Krishna said...

I've heard a lot about this book and found your review really interesting! Thanks, and great blog! I'll be stopping by here more often!