It's always challenging to write a review of a book that you found pretty average. The difficulty is compounded when pretty much every other review of said book that you read falls over itself declaring how great a book is.
This is the problem I'm having with Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. Many people have really enjoyed this book. Several people I know who aren't big nonfiction readers have told me how much they enjoyed this book. I very much anticipated enjoying this book.
And, well, I read it. (That's about the best I can say.) I made it through the whole thing. It's the story of the Kent family, a British family during the 1860s who suffered through the murder of the three-year-old son of Samuel Kent and his second wife. Summerscale's writing is serviceable; the plot suitably salacious. Who killed the child? His much older and half-sister Constance, who may or may not have inherited a bit of madness from her mother, the first Mrs. Kent? Mr. Kent himself and the governess, who may have been having an affair? A disgruntled former servant?
In addition to the murder story, Summerscale also provides a character portrait of Jack Whicher, one of Scotland Yard's first detectives, who investigated the case, and how "detective fever" gripped Victorian England. All the elements are here for a gripping story.
And yet? Well, I finished it. That's all. It was okay but I just didn't feel real strongly about it one way or the other. I wonder if it's getting a lot of press because people who don't read a lot of nonfiction read it and were pleasantly surprised at how good nonfiction could be. But for those of us already in love with nonfiction? We expect it to be at least this good.
On an unrelated note: Here's a big weekend shout-out to Heidi at Two Kitties, who recently tagged me for a "7 things you don't know about me" meme. I'm a big party pooper and don't do memes here (the books are the story, not me), but I encourage you to check out her site to see my answers, and a cute photo of kittens. Hi, Heidi!