THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER

A horrifying Victorian murder mystery, and the detective who solved it

It is a summer’s night in 1860. In an elegant Georgian house in the village of Road, Wiltshire, all is quiet. Behind shuttered windows the Kent family lies sound asleep. At some point after midnight a dog barks.

 

The family wakes the next morning to a horrific discovery: an unimaginably gruesome murder has taken place in their home. When Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard, the most celebrated detective of his day, reaches Road Hill House, he faces an unenviable task: to solve a case in which the grieving family are the suspects.

 

This true story has all the hallmarks of the classic murder mystery - a body; a detective; a country house steeped in secrets. Kate Summerscale untangles the facts, bringing the case back to vivid, extraordinary life.

Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 
Winner of the British Book Awards Book of the Year
‘A tour de force … More than a true-crime account, it’s the story of the intertwining of the detective novel and real-life detectives … a must-read’                                             Sara Paretsky
Now a major TV drama
The Supsicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale ITV drama with Paddy Considine

Praise for ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’

‘It is a beautiful piece, written with great lucidity and respect for the reader, and with immaculate restraint. A classic, to my mind, of the finest documentary writing’

John le Carré
 

‘Remarkable for the power of the storytelling... Kate Summerscale revisits one of the most horrific murders of Victorian England and provides what for me is a credible solution in a book which is likely to be the last word on this tragic and mysterious crime’

PD James, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year

 

‘I can’t think of another book which takes you so fast into the smells, tastes and atmosphere of that time’

Doris Lessing, Granta Books of the Year

 

‘Nothing less than a masterpiece… a perfect mixture of life and art, all the elements of the original tale reverberating outwards, like fireworks, to illuminate that era and our own.  The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is at one and the same time a crime thriller, a sociological history, a biography and a fascinating essay on the nature of investigation… My shelves are stacked with books about crime, but none more satisfying than this’ 

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday 

 

‘A rather brilliant book… a pacy analysis of a true British murder case from 1860, the unravelling of which involved one of the earliest Scotland Yard detectives and inspired sensation novelists such as Dickens and Wilkie Collins by exposing the dark secrets of the Victorian middle-class home. Absolutely riveting’ 

Sarah Waters, The Guardian

 

‘A true crime story about a Victorian-era Scotland Yard inspector who investigates a murder on a country estate … There are dastardly stepchildren, bitter household servants and enough bed hopping to fill a whole season of Big Brother’

Karin Slaughter 

 

‘A terrific book… opens up a dark door in the Victorian credenza — dense with detail, and yet with a nimbleness to the writing that’s unusual even for a very good detective story’

Nicholson Baker

 

‘What the book does brilliantly… is look at notions of class, criminality, human nature and religion in an age of change… engrossing’ 

Ian Rankin, The Guardian

 

‘Kate Summerscale’s fastidiously researched and gripping journey to the dark heart of a forgotten Victorian crime’

Barry Humphries, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year

 

‘It’s a thoroughly satisfying read, brilliantly researched, winningly told, and it’s hard to see how this subject could possibly have been bettered. It’ll stand as a true crime classic’

David Sexton, Evening Standard

 

‘Not only a dazzling non-fiction thriller but also an acute work of literary and social history’

Christopher Silvester, Daily Express


‘A nonfiction history that moves with all the twists of a mystery novel, Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher offers layers of surprises… one eloquent doozy of a true-crime thriller’

Entertainment Weekly

 

‘Crime and its detection become a dark, hallucinatory mirror of the arts of fiction and literary criticism in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: killers, like novelists, gather materials to fashion and execute plots, and detectives, the skillful readers of clues and character, try to expose these plots by unraveling clues, studying the characters of witnesses, and untangling their true connections to the victim… She follows the threads of the Kent family’s tale outward, entwining them with other mythic stories of the age, both fictional and factual, so that the Road Hill murder comes to seem a luminous and uncanny archetypal myth of the Victorian age’

Emily Colette Wilkinson, VQR

 

‘A page-turning merging of scrupulous research with vivid storytelling. Full of atmosphere and striking detail, it is a triumph’

Peter Guttridge, The Observer

 

‘Summerscale brilliantly reconstructs the circumstances of the murder… her narrative has the dark fascination of the sensational fiction her subject helped to inspire… But in this excellent book Summerscale does more: she also examines the impact of the case on Victorian Britain and traces its cultural consequences’

Andrew Taylor, The Spectator

 

‘A compelling whodunnit, but… also a brilliantly insightful meditation on the meaning and function of the genre’

Alastair Sooke, Daily Telegraph

 

‘A beautifully written expose of Victorian familial dysfunction and sexual hypocrisy — Summerscale’s prose gleams like a freshly sterilised scalpel’

John O’Connell, Time Out

 

'With some very deft research, Summerscale has herself become a detective, and brought the case up to date superbly… a terrific coup’

William Leith, Evening Standard

 

‘It’s not just a dark, vicious true-crime story, it is the story of the birth of forensic science, founded on the new and disturbing idea that innocent, insignificant domestic details can reveal unspeakable horrors to those who know how to read them’

Lev Grossman, Time

 

‘Fabulous mix of erudition and sensationalism’

Claire Allfree, Metro

 

‘Under the spell of Kate Summerscale's scrupulous intelligence and mesmerising research, we are drawn into a detective story within a detective story that takes us halfway into the 20th century and across the sea to Tasmania before the clues finally add up to what must surely be the last word on the Road Hill murder’

Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail

 

‘At times Summerscale's book reads more thrillingly than any work of fiction… gripping, unputdownable’

Philip Hoare, The Sunday Telegraph

 

‘A thrillingly good read’

Frances Wilson, Sunday Times Books of the Year

 

‘It is a mark of her success that by the end of this stout, handsome book one is reading as much for Kate Summerscale’s elegant revivification of the past as to discover the terrible truth about the death of Saville Kent’

Jonathan Barnes, Times Literary Supplement

 

'Fact and fiction do not so much blur as bleed into each other in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

Marilyn Stasio, New York Times

 

‘Mesmerising… Whicher is a fascinating hero, and readers will delight in following every lurid twist and turn in his investigation’

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

‘Summerscale organizes her richly documented story of murder with a novelist’s feeling for suspense and drama. She is in a way a detective herself, working on the case as the detective Jonathan Whicher did’ 

Cushing Strout, The Sewanee Review

 

‘Excellent... draws together the story of the first English detectives, the story of how detective fiction unfolded and the story of a gruesome Victorian murder in an artfully woven and unflagging narrative’

Peter Cunningham, Irish Times 

 

‘Summerscale organises the book like a period novel, with a denouement that suggests that full justice was never done. Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City) fans will be enthralled’ 

Library Journal

 

‘Impeccably researched and deeply enjoyable… she has created an enthralling mystery by overlaying the fictional tools of misdirection and suspense onto a nonfiction narrative that, in its day, helped inspire writers to create a new fictional genre — a strange and very impressive feat’

Britt Peterson, The American Scholar

 

‘A bang-up sleuthing adventure’ 

Kirkus Review

INTERNATIONAL EDITIONS
EXTRAS
Kate Summerscale discusses The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
official site
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale official site Bloomsbury

Official website © Kate Summerscale 2017. Background image: 1882 Reynolds map of London / Wikimedia Commons