The Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London by Kate Summerscale

the wicked boy

Penned by the author of the bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, this book is the story of another Victorian crime which was notorious in it’s time, The Plaistow Tragedy of 1895. Two boys, 12 and 13 years old, told neighbors and friends that their mother had gone to Liverpool and proceeded to attend cricket matches, spend cash, and pawn objects. Ten days later, a strange smell alerted people that something was not right…

It’s a book of thirds, the first looks at the crime, the middle at the court case, and the third is the aftermath and what became of the boys. But throughout, the book delves into the circumstances and social mores of the era to explain the pressures and expectations that might have caused this crime. It’s altogether fascinating and thoroughly researched, and is empathetic to everyone involved.

What is perhaps most remarkable about this book is that it not only looks at murder, but the remarkable story which follows it. A story of crime, but also of redemption. It’s quite a moving story, from beginning to end. It’s also really interesting to see the lives and pressures on those who were often ignored or not talked about, the poor. Dickens was often censured for writing about the poor, but even his books often weren’t able to show the truth of lives lived under crushing poverty or on the other sides of London. It’s very insightful.

Read It If: you like true crime or stories from the Victorian era, especially those of the often over looked, the poor. Fascinating.


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