Let me start by saying that I had this on my TBR list for quite some time before I actually got around to it. I finally picked it up at a point when I felt like sinking my teeth into a good “who dunnit” – thinking that a real- life, locked-house, Victorian murder mystery would make for a riveting read.
I guess I had higher expectations than I should have, mainly influenced by all the rave reviews on the inside cover (both front and back!!). Alas, I was bitterly disappointed!
Mr. Whicher, the supposed main character, never managed to find his voice and the end result was way too over- researched and all over the place to actually be enjoyable.
I do realize than one of the writer’s aims was to illustrate how the Road Hill case influenced budding detective work and gave rise to detective novels as such but I’m pretty sure this could have been achieved using much less detail, thus allowing the story (that was a gruesome child murder and the subsequent hunt for the culprit) to shine through.
As it was, there were way too many inconsequential details (pages upon pages of analysis on subsequent detective novels and irrelevant background information on secondary characters’ lives) crowding the pages and interrupting the plot, for the book to engage me in any real way –much less in the way a murder mystery should.
I had to force myself to keep on reading, sometimes even going as far as to skim through the pages, in an effort to reach the end and maybe find out where the whole thing would lead. So overall, even though it’s evident that a lot of careful research went into this book (which I applaud Ms. Summerscale for), I’m afraid I would not in good conscience recommend this to anyone.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (5 Jan 2009)
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