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The Wicked Boy: Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction 2017 (Hardback)
  • The Wicked Boy: Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction 2017 (Hardback)
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The Wicked Boy: Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction 2017 (Hardback)

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£16.99
Hardback 400 Pages / Published: 05/05/2016
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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.

"Her research is needle-sharp and her period detail richly atmospheric" -  The Sunday Times
 
 

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408851142
Number of pages: 400
Weight: 558 g
Dimensions: 216 x 135 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
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 *
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 *
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 *
What makes this meticulously researched retelling so horribly readable is the vivid light Summerscale shines on the violent working-class world Coombes and his younger brother inhabited ... Terrific skill * Metro *
Brilliantly researched and compelling ... What starts as a disturbing tale of horror becomes a deeply moving story of courage and redemption * Irish Times *
Brilliantly researched study of a young Victorian murderer * Sunday Times Summer Reading *
Not just a tale of crime and moral panic, but one of redemption too * The Times Summer Reading *
Summerscale's account of the case is gripping but it's what happens after the trial that makes the book unexpectedly touching * Mail on Sunday *
As fascinating as any novel -- Val McDermid * Independent *
Kate Summerscale brings the same painstaking intensity to her description of the case and its aftermath in The Wicked Boy as she did to her bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. Summerscale's signature virtue is her attention to detail, crucial in any mystery, but here the question hanging over the case is not whodunit, but why. In following Robert's story to Broadmoor and beyond, she gives all the participants back their humanity -- David Horspool * Guardian, 'Book of the Year' *
Here the best-selling Suspicions of Mr Whicher author probes deep into the subsequent criminal case and Coombes' unlikely rehabilitation in a brilliantly atmospheric slice of Victorian true crime -- Book of the Year * Metro *
For Summerscale, who had such a hit with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, this material is a gift, and her riveting tale takes in everything from the penny dreadfuls of the day to conditions at Broadmoor. Once again the author proves a subtle pathologist, her scapel slicing away the skin of late-Victorian Britain to expose the sicknesses beneath -- Dominic Sandbrook * Sunday Times, 'Book of the Year' *
A gripping, beautifully told story of true-life Victorian crime * Reader's Digest *
A brilliant piece of literary detective work, which reads like a novel, but never loses sight of the human tragedy at its heart -- Jane Shilling * Daily Mail *
'a moving take on Victorian murder and redemption' * Sunday Times, Summer Reading *
A gripping account of another sensational case: that of 13-year-old Robert Coombs, who stabbed his mother to death in East London in 1895 ... The human dimension she brings to stories that were originally the Victorian equivalent of clickbait is one reason why Summerscale's books are so successful ... Affecting * Caroline Sanderson, Mslexia Magazine *

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Lindsay Seddon at Chester

“A detailed account of a gruesome matricide”

Having read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher a few years ago, I expected this to be good and Summerscale did not disappoint. A detailed account of a shocking and gruesome matricide committed by a 13 year old boy,... More

Hardback edition
1 similar book recommended
Helpful? Upvote 79

“Real-life told as an artful story”

Kate Summerscale's newest work follows the trend of her previous works; in taking the factual, she pieces together a story that reads as, and is as compelling as any work of fiction. I was fortunate enough to... More

Hardback edition
2 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 68

“Brilliant - as always!”

It's not often that I'll put the fiction I'm reading aside for non-fiction, but there are exceptions and when my copy of Kate Summerscale's latest finally arrived I was instantly hooked. As always... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 66

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