Books I've Been Reading...

I've recently finished a book entitled

"The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" by Kate Summerscale,

the account of an actual murder that took place in rural England in the 1860s, and the Scotland Yard detective whose task it was to investigate the case and unmask the killer.

It's a sad, yet fascinating story, not least because it actually took place, but also because the case is widely accepted as being the progenitor of detective stories in general and the country house murder story in particular.

Detective-Inspector Jonathan 'Jack' Whicher was one of the original recruits to the Detective Police from its inception in the early 1840s, and was widely regarded as one of the best in his field. When the assistance of Scotland Yard was requested by magistrates investigating the murder at Road Hill House, Whicher was selected to travel to the area and unravel what had occurred.

His investigations didn't please everyone, focussing as he did on the family of the victim rather than the servants, and he was not helped by local police who resented his intrusion as an outsider.

The investigation also opened the middle-class Victorian household, heretofore a bastion of privacy, to scrutiny by the masses via the press reports of the case and subsequent inquests and trials.

Not something I would necessarily have sought in a bookstore (Victorian true crime not high on my reading list), I received it as a gift and found it an excellent read.

I would be remiss in not recommending it.

I've also just finished "The Way We Die Now", by Charles Willeford, the last in his Hoke Moseley series, a noir tale about a Miami detective assigned to a secret investigation involving the disappearance of Haitian migrant workers on a farm in a neighbouring county.

Not having read the preceding books in the series (this was recommended by my former creative writing teacher), I have no real picture of the main character other than what I read in the final book, but it looks like he gets what he deserves in the end. Not sure I'll read the other three books in the series, but one never knows...

"Zoo Station" by David Downing is the story of an English journalist, John Russell, living and working in Berlin in 1939 who is approached by the Soviets to write a series of articles about life in Nazi Germany. With a 12-year-old son from a failed marriage to a German wife, and a German girlfriend, Russell is anxious to stay in the Reich as long as possible before the coming war, which everyone accepts as inevitable, breaks out.

Effectively a spy for the NKVD, Russell finds himself also working for the British while evading the SA and maintaining as much of a normal life as one could expect to live in the society of the time, taking his son to football matches and the zoo, dodging his landlady, covering events of the day, etc.

However when a colleague relates details of a story he has uncovered and enlists Russell's aid, the reporter finds himself looking over his shoulder and jumping at every shadow.

An engaging thriller, with a sequel 'Silesian Station' already available, the blurb on the back cover likens it to '...Robert Harris and Fatherland mixed with a dash of LeCarré.'

I'm looking forward to the next one...