Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Over the weekend, I finished The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale, a non fiction book about a child's murder in 19th century England.

The murder was investigated by one of the first group of police labelled detectives - the first group to be allowed to move around in plain clothes and assigned to investigating important cases. In particular, it was Jonathan Whicher, the squad's most capable detective, that was sent. The case had scandalized the community and the evidence was ambiguous. Suspicion had fallen on the members of the family, but which one was the real murder?

The book does a good job of setting up the background of the death, and what happened subsequently when Whicher accused one family member but was unsuccessful in proving his case in court. It wasn't until years later that a confession proved who was right, and who was wrong.

The book also does a good job of showing how the detective story was developing in parallel to the actual detectives, and how this case influenced the new genre and mainly specific stories.

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