The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
A combination of my non-fiction interests: true crime, Victorian history, murder, child murderers, the life of working people, mental health, punishment, rehabilitation.
So! The mystery is not what happened. The mystery is why. In 1895, Robert Coombes, age 13, murdered his mother; left her rotting body in her bedroom; and he and his younger brother, age 12, did what two boys on their own would do. Go watch some sports events, play, pawn a few things to get more money. Family members and neighbors were suspicious, and when they came and smelled something and found the body, Robert pretty much confessed right away.
The mystery is why: and in looking at why, Summerscale looks at both Robert's family but also the times he lived in. His trial, and what happened after.
It was both surprising and actually a bit hopeful. The primary documents answer some questions and leave others unpursued, so it's to the reader and the author to connect the dots and make some guesses. Part of my surprise was, well, how sympathetic some people were; and how rehabilitation mattered as much as punishment.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2019
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