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Laura, I love you! That book has been praised as being the 8th wonder of the world over here, and here's me been thnking " It's yet another book about Constance Kent and it's pretentious and derivative". It isn't just me!


Thanks, Fiz. We have been thinking the same thing and not saying it! I've been reading those reviews too and it's really made me wonder. Martin Edwards liked it, so I kept mum. I haven't read the book yet either. I have a rule: If I can't say something nice, I don't say anything. If I don't think I'll like a book, I don't read it.

But when the author came out with the curious "sleazy" remark, well.

The success of that book has me reassessing quite a few things, not the least of which is my assumption that any case that has been a subject of one of Edmund Pearson's essays has already been done "properly."

What amazed me too is that it's never been presented as a book about Constance Kent but instead focused on the detective and the development of the mystery genre, per reviews. But add the author's inaccurate statement in the Times about the 1860 book, easily disproven in a one-minute Google Books search, I have to wonder about the reliability of her research on the development of mystery fiction (if in fact she did any research, or merely guessed, and regurgitated the research of others).

Was her book intended for the mystery genre audience and not the true crime crowd? Does that explain why she takes this swipe at true crime?



You said

The New York Times is the worst. Wrote the critic I will not deign to name in a piece that appeared in that puffed-up publication: "One thing you don't read true crime for is the truth."

Funny, I'd have said one thing you don't read the New York Times for is the truth.

Kevin M. Sullivan

As far as I'm concerned, the New York Times (for the most part) lost its credibility a long time ago. They are an arrogant and biased bunch, to be sure, and they attempt to create news rather than just report it. And let's not talk about television reporting in this country; it's an absolute joke. You need to look no farther than Keith Olbermann to see how unbelievable things have become. The only redeeming factor here is their inability to fool most people, at least the more cerebral among us.


>>>one thing you don't read the New York Times for is the truth.

har har! Good one, sad but true.


>>>They are an arrogant and biased bunch, to be sure, and they attempt to create news rather than just report it. And let's not talk about television reporting in this country; it's an absolute joke.

Kevin -- I've taken to watching BBC America's news shows when I want to get the news minus nonsense and spin.


Laura, the BBC is not what it was . It's very PC now and I don't wholly trust it. I go to Reuters for news now.


I wouldn't call it "true crime" as such, except she means it to be a "new look" at the case, but it isn't, and a lot of what she says has been regurgitated from other books. Whicher was a source of great fascination to the Victorians, but there are several other books about him, and Dickens' dectective in "Bleak House" is based on Whicher. She's about 150 years too late!

Kevin M. sullivan

Yes, I've enjoyed the BBC in the past, but I'm kinda like fiz now inasmuch as I am suspicious of their motivations. I feel they lean too far to the left, and if they're not careful, they will be as bad as what we have over here. Still, they're practically right-wingers when compared to MSNBC.


Just stumbled onto your site from 100 History Blogs-and so glad I did! You've got a fascinating thing going here. I'm looking forward to exploring. :)

Curious--have you read Josephine Tey's _The Daughter of Time_?? It's a mystery novel, but it deals with a real case--that of Britain's King Richard III and the death of the two princes in the Wars of the Roses era. It thoroughly presents evidence, using the fictional storyline to propel the investigation. Don't know if that would count as a true crime novel, but it's got the right stuff for those interested.

Dark Side Steve

I agree with you, even though I must admit to having some real moments of self-loathing in relation to this genre, myself.

But I have always found the dichotomy between people just loving suspense/mystery novels and hating true crime confounding. I don't have any such barriers in my head, but it's pretty common apparently.

If I weren't so tired I'd go on, but you and I have discussed this over e-mail. You probably know how I feel :)

Good post.


Bethany - that's an interesting title I hadn't heard of before - thanks for the recommendation. I am close to finished with the complete true crime shelves at my local library - I'll put The Daughter of Time on the fiction list.


>>I must admit to having some real moments of self-loathing in relation to this genre, myself.

A long sigh. Woe be unto the long-suffering defenders of true crime, inflicted on one side by the slings of publishers with poor taste and on the other by the arrows of critics who judge the entire shelf by the worst examples.


Well, I've just given her the review she deserves on, which I copied to you, Laura! Miaow!


Oh wow, I just got the patronising comment that this wasn't a true crime book but a history book! Like heck it is, I'm a flipping history graduate!

An Avid Reader

I'm in the last few chapters of the Summerscale book now, and there is no way she can claim it does not belong in True Crime. She really must have read some pitiful exemplars of the species, if she won't own the relationship.

Not having read any of the previous literature about the case, I am not in a very good position to judge if her book is derivative; but I do think she does a good job of putting the case into historical context and relating it to the popular culture of the time, the writings of Wilkie Collins in particular. Or I did until her mistake about first-ever-book-on-a-murder was demonstrated above. Now I do feel a bit let down....

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