March 28th, 2010

important, lives

Made it!

So, last Sunday, I realized that I had a rather terrifying number of things to accomplish in the space of this week, including:

  • Dealing with my car's wonky battery

  • Finishing up a major project at work (I mean major - the culmination of months of work.)

  • Making sure that my coworkers will be able to handle handing off said project to our translation vendor on Monday while I'm down in L.A. celebrating Passover w/Daniel's family

  • Attending the general inspection of the house we've made an offer on

  • Attending to our mortgage broker's insatiable demands for paperwork

  • Finishing up the story I've been working on for Big Finish's Short Trips audio anthology, which is due by Monday

Just to complicate matters I was determined to do this without missing my regular exercise or any of my preexisting social engagements.

And I appear to have succeeded. (Well, I skipped my morning walk on Wednesday, and had an abbreviated one on Thursday. But still.)

Having done all this, I feel entitled to kick back and relax for a bit, but I'm not sure that I remember how...

Review: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is partly a true-crime story, and partly an examination of the social and cultural meaning of detectives and detection in Victorian society. From other reviews, it seems that people who come to this book just for the true crime angle end up being somewhat disappointed. It is a good crime story. The crime is as bizarre and brutal, the clues as convoluted and confusing as in any Victorian mystery novel. The only real lack there is that an actual Victorian novelist would have given us a much more acute examination of the criminal's motives and state of mind when the crime was committed. Summerscale is, alas, limited to what is actually documented in the historical record.

However, in addition to telling the story of the murder itself, Summerscale is very interested in the effect the crime had on Victorian society, and particularly on its image of detectives. Professional detectives were a relatively new thing in 1860, as was mass-media coverage of crime. This meant that the case, and the police investigation of the case, were discussed and dissected in the newspapers in a way that was unprecedented at the time. There were two things I found particularly fascinating: One was the degree to which the investigation was hampered by Victorian discomfort with the idea of working-class policemen (and all policemen at the time were working-class) invading and defiling the privacy of a middle-class home. The other was the extent to which the public quickly concocted a story of how the killing had taken place that was based entirely on circumstantial evidence and turned out to be completely untrue. I thought these sociological details added to the scope of the book, and made it something more than a typical true-crime story.

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