Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale and The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is one of my all-time favorite true crime books. I was beyond excited when I heard she was writing The Wicked Boy, and while it didn't quite live up to Mr. Whicher (I'm honestly not sure most could for me), it was a good, well-written, well-researched read.

The Wicked Boy tells the true tale of Robert Coombes, a young boy who murdered his mother, a crime he and his younger brother hid for days. Summerscale expertly explores not only the crime itself, and the purported motives behind it, but a wide range of other historical, social, and cultural themes: boyhood in the 1800s, the rise of penny dreadfuls and their possible influence on young minds, mental illness, asylums, war, and redemption. 

Trust Summerscale as a writer and researcher. While this may not be her best work ever, it is very good, and keeps her among the best true crime writers of our time.

(This was the book that received the most votes for my participation in the Make Me Read Readathon, and it was a great pick! I'm planning to start The Bone Garden next, which got the second-most votes.)

I was first introduced to Moriarty's writing with Big Little Lies, and what impressed me most about her storytelling was her ability to lure you into thinking you knew exactly where things were heading, then hit you with a twist that you never saw coming but makes total sense looking back.

That is exactly what Moriarty does in The Husband's Secret. The secrets hit hard and stay with you, and have immense repercussions that reverberate in unexpected ways throughout the book. Especially powerful is the last chapter, which (without giving anything away) is an emotional gut punch that perfectly rounds out what has been a taut, emotional tale.


  1. The Wicked Boy sounds intriguing! I love true crime, and the sociological aspect of this one makes it sound even better!

    1. It's really good, I would definitely recommend it!

  2. Dear Becca W:

    Might I convince you to take a look at my upcoming book, Yes, I Named My Daughter Gaylord Focker. So Focking What! (Over 1,000 Real Names of Real People, All Weird) by Joseph Joel, no kids. Don’t want little sh*theads on my floor. I was just kidding! It releases as an eBook September 1. It is a quick read at just over 11,000 words that will be worth every minute that you will choose to spend with it.
    Thanks for considering this request. I look forward to hearing from you,

    Joseph Joel

    Here is a part of my book:

    Outraged customer ahead of me in a store. Unreasonable business associate. Nothing that a good chuckle can’t cure.

    If you pay attention, you can learn a lot about people. Some of it is obvious. Some of it is bizarre.

    Now, about the obvious: Everybody has a name, and everybody can relate to names. As a person who talks but especially listens a lot, I run into unusual and quirky names often. But still, this book has taken most of my life to write. Anyway, I write down the person’s name and verify it later regarding getting the information correct in the first place. No name is incorrectly reported in my fierce quest for accuracy.

    I have learned that there is not a person alive who does not have or know somebody with a name that is atypical or weird. The waitress at one of my favorite diners in town is sure to remind me that her name is “Bippie,” and if I get it wrong, I may find a fake fingernail in my lentil soup. Not really. She does a professional job!

    I met this wonderful woman named “Luna.” Her whole life, she was tormented by this first name. But worse, she hated that she was not given a middle name. While growing up, she would pin imaginary middle names on her bedroom curtain quite often. And, when she turned 21, she legally gave herself the middle name of “Delight.”

    Now, the pronunciations may not be what some people might expect, but the spelling is what matters. For instance, “Moron” may have a Spanish or even a French pronunciation that we would not initially expect which is better than the “I am a dumbass” related pronunciation. But, the spelling is the same.

    A part of the inspiration for the book is a custom-made license plate that I saw while walking on a lonely street in a city where I resided at the time. It said, “MORON.” Is that how that person wanted to be labeled and known? What was the thinking behind giving one’s car, and hence oneself, such a name? Or, was thinking even possible in this case? I, on the other hand, do not want to look stupid. Silly, outrageous, sarcastic, thorough, and funny are much more my style.

    And, it was not long ago that I found a sign outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that said “Shit Creek.” Does anybody wanna go fishing?

    Now, what inspired this whole book even more, however, is my love of movies. I saw Meet the Parents, in which the main character, played by Ben Stiller, is named “Gaylord Focker.” I learned that Jim Carrey came up with this name only for one of the producers to learn that there actually are three Gaylord Fockers in America, or at least this notion is what he believed. (I do not think that he researched this suspicion well.) In fact, the producer was wrong, or at least, I see no evidence of it. Nobody really has or had that name in real life. Everybody makes mistakes, even producers of hilarious movies. He will remain nameless. It is only fair. Ha ha!