Kate Summerscale

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of A Victorian Child Murderer

Saturday 17 September 2016

Kate Summerscale

The Wicked Boy, Kate Summerscale

A former journalist and editor, Kate Summerscale was inspired to start writing her excellent non-fiction books whilst working on the obituaries desk at the Daily Telegraph. Her first book The Queen of Whale Cay focused on the eccentric heiress and motorbike racer Marion Barbara Carstairs. Her second book, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and was adapted into a major ITV drama.

Kate’s latest book The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer is a compelling and shocking study of two young brothers, Robert and Nattie Coombes, who became an overnight sensation when they were discovered to have murdered their mother. In keeping with the cultural assumptions of the time, the 14 year old Robert was declared a wicked and depraved killer, found guilty at the Old Bailey and sent to Broadmoor. As in her earlier books, Kate’s extensive research uncovers how notions of class, education, gender and criminality played a role in the case and how Robert’s allegations of domestic violence were ignored.

Asking fundamental questions about morality, murder and redemption, The Wicked Boy also uncovers some fascinating research about Robert Coombes life during and after his spell in prison. After emigrating to Australia, he went on to win a Military Medal for his ‘splendid and gallant work’ during WWI. He also offered long-term refuge and friendship to a teenage boy suffering domestic violence himself.

Kate will be in conversation with author and broadcaster Erica Wagner.