When you think of Victorian policing, the first thing that probably pops into your head is the hunt for Jack the Ripper. From a twenty-first century perspective, the methods undertaken by these officers seem primitive but, compared to when Scotland Yard’s first Detective branch was set up in 1842, they were actually quite organised. In this book, Joan Lock discusses some of the more well-known cases investigated by the early Scotland Yard detectives along with many of the lesser-known ones.
As someone who is fascinated by Victorian crime, this book looked to be exactly the sort I would love to read, not least because the sub-heading, ‘A Window into the World of Mr. Whicher’, refers to the detective known for investigating the infamous Road Hill House murder. In the end, Whicher plays only a very small role in this book and the aforementioned case, the murder of Savile Kent, is only discussed briefly.
I found some of the cases more interesting to read about than others, although the main emphasis is not on the actual cases themselves but on the methods used to bring the culprits to justice. Joan Lock has certainly researched well in order to show how difficult it was for the police of their day in a job that was underpaid and where they had to face untold danger on a daily basis. It soon becomes apparent that a lot of cases were solved, not as a result of the forensic evidence that is used so much today, but due to the doggedness of the detectives and, often, by complete luck.
For anyone interested in the advent of the police force or Victorian crime in general, then this book is a must-read.
With thanks to Netgalley and Endeavour Press for the ARC.