Mr. Whicher was one of the first group of men to form the detective force which became Scotland Yard. He became the prototype for fictional detectives, and the setting of the mystery retold in this book became the prototype for detective fiction: the closed country estate with a limited number of suspects, all of them seemingly innocent on the surface. The case remained unsolved until one of the suspects, some years later, confessed to the deed. Mr. Whicher's career foundered on this case. But was it solved even when the confession was made?
Ms. Summerscale has done an excellent job of setting the stage, of researching the story, the setting, the details, even the weather. She wrote in an engaging manner. She takes an unflinching look at the gruesomeness of the crime, but not in a sensationalistic way. She excels especially at describing the milieu in which the crime takes place, bringing in such disparate characters as Charles Dickens (an ardent admirer of Mr. Whicher) and Charles Spurgeon (who had some things to say about the crime and the one who confessed to it), and tracing the influence of this real crime on fictional crime.
Ms. Summerscale provides her own solution to the puzzle and argues for it persuasively.
I would highly recommend this book to any lover of detective fiction.