I’m a fan of crime novels, but less so of books about true crime. I prefer my mysteries fictional, ideally featuring kick-ass women, lots of witty dialogue and a plot that gets wrapped-up neatly at the end. Real life is so miserably lacking in tidy resolutions. So when lots of friends recommended I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale a few years ago, I was reluctant. It features the true story of the brutal murder of a young child in 1860. Far too distressing. But, my friends explained, the way it’s written, you’re distanced from the child. It’s more an unravelling of a country house murder, with added dollops of sordidness.
The book is about the investigation by Scotland Yard detective Jack Whicher into the circumstances leading up to the death of four-year old Saville Kent at the home of the well-to-do Kent family, Road Hill House. The nursemaid had woken to discover that her charge, who shared her room, had gone missing in the night. A frantic search uncovered the murdered body of the child in the outside toilet. Local police proved entirely inadequate to the task of investigating, and so the cool, calm and super-smart detective, Jack Whicher (upon which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins are said to have based their famous detectives), is sent down to crack the case. What he discovers is a household riddled with dysfunction and dark, bitter secrets of sex, madness, cruelty and jealousy. And this is what makes the book, and now the ITV drama, so gripping.
The story has been handled superbly. With ITV, you have the irksome business of ad breaks to factor in, the inanity of which can wreck any tension that’s been building up. But even so, I can highly recommend this dramatisation. It’s always a good sign when you know the outcome of a story, yet you still feel gripped as it unfolds. In this case, it is aided by a magnificent performance by the cast, with particular credit to Paddy Considine as Whicher, the ever compelling Peter Capaldi as father, Samuel Kent, and Alexandra Roach as his daughter, Constance.
If you missed it, you can catch it on ITV Player.
Posted by Inkface