I have a thing for true murder mystery books. They are my secret love and I have read a lot of them. Some are incredibly trashy and seem to have been written by a 4th grader telling, but there are others that are so well written that they seem like novels more than true murder mysteries. I am glad to say that The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale* falls into the latter.
In 1895, Robert Coombes (13 years old) and his brother Nattie (12 years old) all of a sudden come into a large sum of money. They are going to the big cricket match, they are buying things their family cannot afford, and they are just having a ball. Their father is on a ship heading for America and their mother seems to have disappeared. Neighbors ask about her and are told she is out by the boys. Their aunt comes over demanding to see their mother and they simply won't let her in. The neighbors are also noticing a pungent smell is coming from the house. They boy's aunt bursts in with police, while the boys are playing cards on the first floor and find their mother several days dead in her room with a knife by her side. Robert immediately admits to stabbing his mother once Nattie gave him the signal to do so.
This is all told in the FIRST CHAPTER of the book!
The rest of the book is a well told and greatly detailed story of what happened to the boys during and following the trial. We read what happened behind closed doors and while their father was away prior to the murder. We read how Robert treated his trial and what happened to him.
The amazing thing is it is an UPLIFTING story at the end. I don't consider this a spoiler as a simple Google search for the boys will reveal a lot of information, but that information comes from Summerscale's deeply researched book.
I have not read any of her books prior to this one, but this one made me want to read more. As it is an older story of murder, one can draw so many parallels to today. Robert had a thing for Penny Dreadfuls, which were cheap murder books for children. These silly books were considered vulgar for the young minds and the thought was they would drive children to murder. It is a similar argument around rock music or video games. Summerscale's presentation was very approachable even within its depth.
I would suggest that if you are interested in reading this one, not to use Google or even read other reviews as you will find out the ending to their story and as stated it is a good ending.
I gave this one 3.5 stars almost into 4 stars.
Here is your Amazon link- The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale
*I received this book for review from NetGalley and from Penguin Press in exchange for an honest review