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 Amazon.ca or Chapters.ca 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!