The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale: At the dawn of the era of detectives (which, incidentally, was relatively recent), there was one detective at Scotland Yard who outshined all of his peers. Detective-Inspector Jonathan Whicher was the cream of the crop when it came to this newly formed league of investigators and, true to the ideal, took brutal crimes and turned them into solvable puzzles based on subtle clues and innuendos that would have escaped a lesser man.
In June of 1860, a disturbing murder was committed in an English country house and Whicher’s most intriguing, frustrating and, ultimately ruinous cases was opened. Kate Summerscale painstakingly recreates the investigation in her non-fiction book and creates a riveting look at the rise of both the detective-celebrity and the public mass consumption of murders.
Road Hill House, ironically, would seem to have been the perfect setting for a typical English manor house murder mystery where a singular detective quickly swoops in, assesses the situation, gathers all of the suspects in the drawing room and announces the murderer. What happened there, however, was far more sinister. Early in the morning of June 29, 1860, three year-old Saville Kent was removed from his bed. The next morning, he was found dumped in the bottom of an outdoor toilet — his throat brutally slashed.
What follows is a page-turning account of suspicious secrecy, deliberate deceit, bungled police work and one man’s dedication to finding the truth and bringing the perpetrator to justice. Whicher’s investigations, first lauded, were eventually decried as unfair persecution and unnecessary invasion into the inviolable privacy of the Victorian family. Summerscale’s account is engrossing, thorough, satisfying — and certainly no small feat of detective work in its own right.