I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. Lately I’ve been so enmeshed in modern crimes that it was interesting to step back in time and read about a grisly Victorian era murder that sparked the craze of the “detective” and the amateur sleuth—something that continues today and is far more embraced than it was in the 1860’s. The author takes a deep dive into this well to-do family that wakes up one morning to find that someone within the household has murdered a three-year-old little boy. Perhaps the deep-dive was a bit too deep into tangential topics at times, but I really enjoyed seeing how the murder of little Saville sparked a fascination that is still raging today.
I learned a lot about the early profession of the “detective” through this book, and how the investigators were looked down upon as no better than gossips when they “stuck their noises” into higher society. It was fascinating to see how obsessed people got with this case and noting the parallels that obsession has to today’s true crime podcasters. The story-telling can be a bit dry, and because the crime is so old what the detectives do can hardly be considered investigating, but I enjoyed that window into the past to see how far these systems have come from where they started—basically as just classifying everything as a form of madness.
My biggest issue with the book was it spent a bit too much time on what Whicher does after the Road Hill case. The book meanders way from the central murder to talk about what the media attention did to the family, before eventually coming back to discuss what happened of the person charged with the murder. The writing, I found, to be engaging, but it just seemed to lose focus for a bit, which is why I’m giving it 4 stars. The true crime aspect isn’t as good (this was before Jack the Ripper) as the historical importance for the modern day amateur and internet sleuths, so I mainly recommend reading this or that aspect!
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