The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

  • by Kate Summerscale
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 9 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In June of 1860, three-year-old Saville Kent was found at the bottom of an outdoor privy with his throat slit. The crime horrified all of England and led to a national obsession with detection - ironically destroying, in the process, the career of perhaps the greatest detective in the land.At the time, the detective was a relatively new invention; there were only eight detectives in all of England and rarely were they called out of London, but this crime was so shocking that Scotland Yard sent its best man to investigate, Inspector Jonathan Whicher.Whicher quickly believed the unbelievable - that someone within the family was responsible for the murder of young Saville Kent. Without sufficient evidence or a confession, though, his case was circumstantial and he returned to London a broken man. Though he would be vindicated five years later, the real legacy of Jonathan Whicher lives on in fiction: the tough, quirky, knowing, and all-seeing detective that we know and love today - from the cryptic Sergeant Cuff in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone to Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is a provocative work of nonfiction that reads like a Victorian thriller, and in it author Kate Summerscale has fashioned a brilliant, multilayered narrative that is as cleverly constructed as it is beautifully written.

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What the Critics Say

"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." (Time)
"A bang-up sleuthing adventure." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Tragic Murder at dawn of detective bureau

A crazy horrible tragedy, straight out of history. The 150 year old murder is recounted with details from what household members wore, the weather, the newspaper reports, and biographies of every person connected with the case. And put into context with other historical events and comments from notable figures (I was amused to hear so much from Charles Dickens on the matter). I feel bad for detective Whicher, his situation was impossible, first coming so late to the case, after the earlier investigators' fumbles, and then being vilified by the court of public opinion without the ability to explain his reasons or method, simply doomed to live in frustrated silence.
Aside from the gruesome case and really messed up family, I enjoyed the analysis done by the author on the affect of this murder and others at the time on the public and literature of the time. As a purveyor of many detective novels, and having liked Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, it was interesting to see how the real life and fictional investigators found their rocky starts in Victorian England. It kind of enables another layer of appreciation for the genre.
I shared Mr. Whicher's suspicions from early on, a disappointing end for the case in my opinion, but a well drawn non-fictional narrative. I have never been inclined to read "true crime" type stories before, but this one had my attention, I'm sure because it so closely resembled the fictional mysteries I enjoy (and some of which I now know took their cues from this real murder). Well written and well narrated. I always enjoy listening to Simon Vance.
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- Jennifer

Witty, Horrifying, Brillant Page Turner

Any additional comments?

I had to scan back through my audible records to get the correct number, I've listed to 61 works of nonfiction in the last year. This was HANDS DOWN the best. The narrator was fabulous, he did all the voices which was just lovely. The writing was beautiful. The author perfectly captured the intrigue of mid Victorian England, the devastating and baffling nature of the crime, and the advancement of the field of detection. It was well balanced, well paced, and fascinating from start to finish. 10/10 and I don't say that lightly.

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- prblyshopping

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-15-2008
  • Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books