by Kate Summerscale
It almost seems redundant to summarize this investigative case study yet again as so many bloggers have reviewed this one in recent weeks but I can't say it any better than the first sentences of the introduction:
"This is the story of a murder committed in an English country house in 1860, perhaps the most disturbing murder of its time. The search for the killer threatened the career of one of the first and greatest detectives, inspired a 'detective-fever' throughout England, and set the course of detective fiction."
What you will find between the covers is a vastly well researched account drawn from newspaper articles, court records, correspondence and published accounts written after the tragedy. The notes and bibliography sections alone are 40 pages worth. Every detail that could possibly be found out about this case, the people involved and public opinion at the time were drawn out and redrawn into a chronology meant to give the reader a chance to see it from all angles. The sheer volume of details could be overwhelming at times but I believe this to have been intentional. Overwhelmed is exactly what everyone involved with the case was; everyone except Mr. Whicher who had such confidence in his assessment from such an early point and never wavered from it that the public considered him dangerously arrogant, determined to destroy an innocent youth. There was a point when I thought there was some extraneous detail but it soon proved to be of importance to Ms. Summerscale's purpose. All I can say is, "Very well done."
One of the elements that held my interest throughout was the inclusion of excerpts and background from popular detective fiction that the case inspired. I now have small list of books I want to read right away but with an eye for connections to this story:
- Lady Audley's Secret
- The Woman in White
- The Moonstone
- Bleak House
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood
- The Turn of the Screw
Two of these titles are in my RIP III "pool" (along with this book) making them my enthusiastic choices for reading, at least for today.
While the presentation is full and unadorned I wouldn't call it dry. I wanted to keep reading to find out what else there was to discover. And there are new revelations in each chapter, including the five paragraph Afterword. I highly recommend this title.
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