I first came across this book in a Paris bookstore at the start of a long Sunday walk up to Montmartre The book being in hard back was a must read for me but should I be sensible and buy it later? It was a steep climb to the top you see. Well, as fellow book addicts will agree, there is no such thing as being sensible when you’re just dying to read a new book. I also thought of my TBR pile in French but then decided an English break was what I needed (any excuse). So I bought the book, carried it around Paris for an entire day and tucked in to my literary feast as soon as I got home.
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is fascinating account on a crime which occured in 1860 and which shocked the whole of England. 3 year old Saville Kent, son of a well to do British Government Official was found murdered, his small body stuffed in an outdoor privy. The man leading the investigation was Mr Jonathan Whicher. It was the sensationalist tabloid story of its the time and everyone, it seemed, had an opinion on it. It was one of the most infamous murders of the 19th century; Constance Kent was arrested for the murder of her 3-year-old half-brother.
Some people have found the book long and laborious to read but then it is a lot of detail and investigation in it. However I would advise you not to be put off – it is written in such a captivating way that it is definitely worth persevering with since it is effectively also the story of how forensic investigation first came into being. It was also the springboard to so many new literary journeys for a new breed of character : the literary detective. Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot were the literary descendants of Mr.Whicher.
Road hill house
My first visit back to the UK after the book and where did I do? Well, I had to really didn’t I?
Road Hill House is now known as Langham House and can be found in the pretty village of rode in Somerset. Beautiful and quaint you might say, was it not for the infamous murder of 1860.
Back in 2010, it was the 150th anniversary of the infamous child murder at Road Hill House and the owners of the house gave a rare opportunity for the public to see the gardens Unfortunately, I was not able to visit the gardens nor the house but I did get to catch a glimpse of it, and its every big and imposing as it appears in the novel. The house has seen an increased level of interest since the publication of Kate Summerscale’s book but whilst in Rode, I stumbled across another book on the subject : Paul Chambers’ ‘Murder Most Foul’ has also been published about the Rode murder. So, I found myself buying this one too for the journey back!
If you come to Rode looking for the backdrop to a literary mystery you will most certainly find it. I found a lovely corner of a park, picked up my Mr Whicher and started to reread on site. A visit to Rode Chapel on the high street was particular reminiscent of the novel’s events too. A spot of lunch in the local Cross Keys pub made my literary journey complete and to be honest, most of the village I walked around looked exactly like I imagined it would have back in 1860. I was in the novel; I was there and saw the book come to life right before my very eyes.