Eamonn Lynskey's Poetry and Reading Blog

June 26, 2010

‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ by Kate Summerscale. (Publ. by Bloomsbury 2008)

Filed under: Books — tvivf @ 2:25

On the cover of this book we read ‘Absolutely riveting’. It’s not. ‘A classic’. A classic what? ‘Terrific.’ As in ‘terrifying? or ‘Really good’? It’s neither. I had heard so much about it I thought yes I must read this. Very disappointing. OK, the murder tself was very odd, and the subsequent events only deepened the mystery. But it could be said of this narrative what a critic once said about another work: ‘The covers of this book are too far apart’… Mr Whicher is the detective who has his suspicions that he is not getting the truth out of people, and the case is certainly a peculiar, and interesting one (though not ‘riveting’) but the author is not content to stick to the case itself. We have to hear about other cases Mr Whicher was involved in, and at great length, and so by the time the digressions are finished, it’s time again to consult the list of characters to see who’s who as the narrative of ‘The Murder at Road Hill House’ sputters into life again. There are also lots of digressions regarding life in Victorian Britain, which I found interesting because I have an interest in that period. But I wonder about people who are NOT so interested in Victorian Britan? There is also a lengthy treatment at the end of the book regarding how each of the family fared in later life, which, although interesting, is not relevant to the ostensible subject of the book. Not recommended.

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