The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer
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 'Her research is needle-sharp and her period detail richly atmospheric, but what is most heartening about this truly remarkable book is the story of real-life redemption that it brings to light' John Carey, Sunday Times 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, leaving the boys and their mother at home for the summer. Over the next ten days Robert and Nattie spent extravagantly, pawning family valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. During this time nobody saw or heard from their mother, though the boys told neighbours she was visiting relatives. As the sun beat down on the Coombes house, an awful smell began to emanate from the building. When the police were finally called to investigate, what they found in one of the bedrooms 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
No other writer could have made the Coombes case so fascinating and so vivid ... It would be impossible to read this dry-eyed -- Cressida Connelly Spectator An extraordinary book which will stay with you -- Vanessa Berridge Daily Express Gripping... Summerscale is an exquisite storyteller. She is judicious in her use of detail, subtle in her unspoken connections between the past and the present... This is the story of one wicked boy, but it is also a plea for compassion and empathy -- Daisy Goodwin The Times For her latest forensic investigation into the throttled passions of Victorian family life, Summerscale has moved forward 35 years to 1895 and turned away from the provincial bourgeois home to the working-class terraces of London's East End ... [a] fine account ... subtle and confident -- Kathryn Hughes Guardian Unexpectedly touching... a fascinating account of a murder and its endless reverberations -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday As Kate Summerscale has proved before, she has a wonderfully sharp eye for stories which turn out not to be quite what they seem... a remarkably heartening story -- John Preston Daily Mail Compelling... it gripped and stoked the national imagination, just as it surely will again -- Philippa Stockley Evening Standard A work of social history that is as compassionate as it is absorbing... we almost feel we are wandering through these scenes ourselves -- Rebecca Gowers The Oldie Ultimately, the narrative is an exploration of Victorian attitudes to juvenile crime, and this pacy slice of social history acts as both hawk-eyed prosecution and gentle defence -- Zoe Apostolides Financial Times An absorbing account of fin-de-siecle Britain... [and] a powerful story about vulnerable and neglected children, both then and now -- Daisy Hay Daily Telegraph It's a fascinating story and Summerscale tells it beautifully... [Her] sympathetic and intelligent study is full of social interest too. I can't imagine that it could have been done better -- Alan Massie Scotsman The challenge, to which Ms Summerscale rises wonderfully well, is to sustain the reader's interest in him for the remaining 50-odd years of his life ... Evocative ... Through a mixture of serendipity and meticulous research, Ms Summerscale is able to add one final, heart-stopping twist Economist Redemption comes twice in this account ... An extremely touching twist ... Scrupulous and occasionally startling -- Rachel Cooke Observer Summerscale has performed a stunning post-mortem of "the horror" at number 35 ... Talk about bringing history alive Sunday Express It is above all her skill in creating a context for the crime which makes The Wicked Boy so readable ... the sounds and smells of the East End docks, from which their father set sail, are evoked with particular vividness. More fascinating still are the ideas of the age ... An extraordinary tale of redemption Tablet Her research is needle-sharp and her period detail richly atmospheric, but what is most heartening about this truly remarkable book is the story of real-life redemption that it brings to light -- John Carey Sunday Times
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. 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.