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November 2008: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victo

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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diamondlil
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November 2008: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victo

Post by diamondlil » Sat November 1st, 2008, 10:52 am

Please discuss the November 2008 Book of the Month, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale in this thread.

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michellemoran
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Post by michellemoran » Sun November 2nd, 2008, 9:31 pm

It's difficult to talk about the book without giving too much away, so I'll just say I really, really enjoyed TSMW. I find myself being drawn to more and more narrative nonfiction lately, especially if it's set in the past. I loved the small period details, and the way the author compared Whicher to fictional detectives.
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michellemoran
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Post by michellemoran » Tue November 4th, 2008, 8:38 pm

A reviewer just won $1000 for their write-up of this book in the Virginia Quarterly Review!

What a great idea to encourage young writers!
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AuntiePam
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Post by AuntiePam » Sun December 7th, 2008, 7:23 pm

I was disappointed with this book. The author did a good job setting the scene and showing us how early detectives did their jobs, but it was a bit too dry for me. Nobody came to life -- it was maybe a bit too factual. The case is fascinating though, but I think I would have liked it better if it had been fictionalized, or if Summerscale had given us some of her thoughts and opinions -- extrapolate a bit. It was like she was reluctant to include any behavior or actions that couldn't be found in the factual record.

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Telynor
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Post by Telynor » Thu January 8th, 2009, 4:38 pm

I finally got this one finished up last night, and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The ending was a real twist, and one that I couldn't see coming. What got to me was the tragedy of the entire family, and how damaged emotionally those elder children of Samuel Kent must have been. Quite a story.

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Leo62
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Post by Leo62 » Thu January 8th, 2009, 5:53 pm

I read this a few months ago, after hearing a serialisation on Radio 4 in the UK. It was fascinating, if not exactly action-packed, and I ended up feeling pretty sorry for poor old Jack Whicher...

My only criticism is that this book was marketed rather like a thriller. It isn't. It's a carefully written, though accessible, history. Anyone reading it expecting The Woman in White or Sherlock Holmes is going to feel a bit let down by the lack of a neat and satisfactory resolution - in fact, this is one of the main things that differentiates this real-life case from the detective fiction it supposedly inspired.

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Vanessa
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Post by Vanessa » Thu May 28th, 2009, 7:31 pm

I found this book quite interesting but it was a bit of a slog for me in places. The writing style was very dry. I thought the author had done a remarkable job with her research, however, and I did enjoy reading about the origins of some words, eg the word 'clue' which originated from the word 'clew' which means a ball of thread which relates to the ancient Greek myth about Theseus trying to find his way out of the labyrinth with a ball of thread. I think I just prefer fiction to non-fiction! I like a story - a nice mix of fact and fiction.

I believe the author is writing another non-fiction book at the moment.
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Post by LoisAnn » Sat May 30th, 2009, 11:20 pm

Vanessa,

I quite agree with your comments about this book! Overall I was quite disappointed. I found I didn't care for any of the characters, with the exception of poor Mr. Whicher, and for the most part the book was very flat.

I came away feeling just a bit cheated. I was expecting a "true crime thriller" set in 1800's England, and instead I got a full-length lecture on the development of detective work - both in real life and in literature. And, while that was interesting, the actual story felt like an "oh, by the way" to the author's more important mission of sharing her research.

P.S. I noticed you have a quote from Shadow of the Wind in your 'signature' block. That is one of my favorite-for-all-time books!
I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. ~ Charles de Secondat

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat May 30th, 2009, 11:59 pm

I got as far as the first chapter and decided it wasn't the book for me. It was very dry and much too detailed - mind you I used to read a lot of true crime and love the small details.
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Vanessa
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Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Sun May 31st, 2009, 10:45 am

I loved Shadow of The Wind, too, Lois Ann. His new one, The Angel's Game, has just been published in the UK. I'm looking forward to it but I shall probably try to resist buying it until it comes out in paperback.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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