The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer
Early in the morning of Monday 8 July 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes and his twelve-year-old brother Nattie set out from their small, yellow-brick terraced house in East London to watch a cricket match at Lord's. Their father had gone to sea the previous Friday, the boys told their neighbours, and their mother was visiting her family in Liverpool. Over the next ten days Robert and Nattie spent extravagantly, pawning their parents' valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. But as the sun beat down on the Coombes house, a strange smell began to emanate from the building. When the police were finally called to investigate, the discovery they made sent the press into a frenzy of horror and alarm, and Robert and Nattie were swept up in a criminal trial that echoed the outrageous plots of the 'penny dreadful' novels that Robert loved to read. In The Wicked Boy, Kate Summerscale has uncovered a fascinating true story of murder and morality - it is not just a meticulous examination of a shocking Victorian case, but also a compelling account of its aftermath, and of man's capacity to overcome the past.
The gripping, fascinating account of a shocking murder case that sent late Victorian Britain into a frenzy, by the number one bestselling, multi-award-winning author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
A beautiful piece, written with great lucidity and respect for the reader, and with immaculate restraint. A classic, to my mind, of the finest documentary writing John Le Carre Summerscale has constructed nothing less than a masterpiece ... My shelves are stacked with books about crime, but none more satisfying than this Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday Absolutely riveting Sarah Waters, Guardian A terrific read in the Wilkie Collins tradition -- Susan Hill Kate Summerscale's book is a tour de force Mail on Sunday Terrific -- Ian Rankin Captivating, flawless... an adroit mix of factual material and fiction techniques -- Guardian A page-turning merging of scrupulous research with vivid storytelling. Full of atmosphere and striking detail, it is a triumph Observer The best locked-room murder story you'll read all year Independent An unexpectedly moving thriller Daily Telegraph The kind of Victorian noir you simply couldn't make up Sunday Telegraph This is a fantastic book, fantastically written, and a book of deep moral purpose Newsnight Review A tour de force ... More than a true-crime account, though, it's the story of the intertwining of the detective novel and real-life detectives, and the story of the way in which criminal investigation, Darwinian science, and Freudian analysis all evolved in tandem, with a shared belief in searching the past for clues ... A must-read for anyone who cares about the mystery genre -- Sara Paretsky A true crime story about a Victorian-era Scotland Yard inspector who investigates a murder on a country estate ... There are dastardly stepchildren, bitter household servants and enough bed hopping to fill a whole season of Big Brother -- Karin Slaughter I also hugely enjoyed Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher -- John Lanchester New Statesman Books of the Year In The Wicked Boy, Kate Summerscale, author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, tells another shocking true story of Victorian crime -- Charlotte Heathcote Daily Express
Kate Summerscale is the author of the number one bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Galaxy British Book of the Year Award, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and adapted into a major ITV drama. It was also shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award, the Irish Book Awards and the South Bank Show Literature Award. Her first book, the bestselling The Queen of Whale Cay, won a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread biography award. Her third book, Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Kate Summerscale was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010. She lives in London.