Saturday, February 6, 2010

January – The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

The suspicions of Mr. Whicher left The Third Tuesday Book Club feeling, well, suspicious. Of whom? Mr. Whicher. And maybe of Kate Summerscale, the writer. For a book whose title suggests that it will be about the undoing of a Victorian detective, it left many of our book club members wonder how exactly Mr. Whicher was undone.

This book is actually based on a true crime, and the real life of Detective Whicher. It takes place during the Victorian era in England. During this time, detectives were fairly unheard of, distrusted, and had to solve the crimes that they investigated or else risk losing credibility. Tragically, as Whicher investigated the crime that novel focuses on, he realizes that he is unable to provide a solid whodunnit, and is therefore cast into obscurity.

Most of us liked the crime story best. Surprising, because the crime story was actually only supposed to serve as the back-story to the main plot: Whicher's undoing. However, the crime story was far more interesting. It was a classic murder-mystery, with a number of suspects, all with their own motives or circumstances that pointed to them as suspects. Theirs was the ageless tale of betrayal, adultery, and money. Jealous children, jealous wives, and a family run amok with syphilis courtesy of the typical "Can't Keep it in his Pants" patriarch—the sensational possibilities write themselves! Anyone could have been responsible for the untimely demise of the victim. The thing that made this story truly sad instead of sensational was the fact that the victim was only three years old. Hardly old enough to defend himself—a true innocent.

While many of us agreed that the crime story was the highlight, we all agreed that Summerscale lost focus in the story about Whicher's undoing. Some of us felt that the book was lacking, and could have been much longer in order to give enough details about how exactly the case caused Whicher's undoing. Others of us felt that book was faaaaar too long. It read like a police report a lot of the time—and it had the ability to drag a little. So much so, that a couple of members who started this book could not finish it. One of these members of whom I speak is a notorious book-finisher, and it is rare that she meets a book so slow, that she opts to put in down half-read. That being said, there were other members who loved this book a lot.

Those that loved the book cited a few reasons, the main one of which being the very exciting murder-mystery aspect. Other things that readers enjoyed were the commentary that the book offered on Victorian society and social rules of the time. That is, that appearance was everything. If you were upper-crust, you had it all (even the syph! Yay!)—or did you? Dah dah dah! Readers also enjoyed reading about the forensics used during the time period. Very interesting stuff!

Confession time: I did not read this book, so every time I referred to "us" above, what I really meant was, every body in the Third Tuesday Book Club except me. And yet, I still managed to bang out an amazing blog. (kidding, kidding)

Time for more picks: Here's the schedule. Be ready to pick your book two to three months ahead of time.

April – Darline

Darline has selected Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. Check out or for this one, as Chapters only had one paper-copy on hand.

May – Vanessa

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The rest are TBA.

June – Lynn
July – Paddy
August – Sue
Sept – Trisha
Oct – Jenn
Nov – Jeanette

I know we have a couple new members, and we'll tack'em onto the end somewhere in there!

Next meeting is Tuesday Feb 16 @ 7:30. We will be reading and discussing DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage. See everyone there!


trisha said...

I didn't read it either, but I feel that I know all I need to about Mr Whicher. !!

Jenn said...

Trust me m'lady. You know allllllll you need to know about Mr. Whicher! Hahaha:)

Helen said...

Helen said
I read this novel on a train on a trip returning from Quebec, so I was a captive audience. I thought the detective story line was interesting, but would have liked to read more about the times in London when these detectives were just starting out. I agree with others that the author took many pages to relate a rather simple story.
If I wasn't a captive audience, I might not have finished the novel.
I like your blog.

Jenn said...

Thanks Helen!
I am glad that you like the blog! It seems like a train would be a fitting place to read this novel. Trains just seem…so…Victorian:)

Vanessa said...

I like the blog but not a fan of the creepy butterfly thing JENN!

Jenn said...

Well the good news is, is that I change it every few months or so. The butterfly has about a month, two at the most, left:)

Now, go be a follower on my pirate blog too!